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(1998) (Ryan O'Neal, Eric Idle) (R)

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Comedy: A movie director steals and threatens to burn the only copy of a film he directed, but lost control of, and from which he wants his name removed.
In Hollywood, if a director doesn't like the way his movie has turned out, he can have his name replaced in the credits with the pseudonym, "Alan Smithee." In this mock documentary, an editor turned director, whose real name is Alan Smithee (ERIC IDLE), steals his film and threatens to burn it after creative control is wrested from him. The producers, James Edmunds (RYAN O'NEAL) and Jerry Glover (RICHARD JENI), desperately want back the sole copy of "Trio," the most expensive movie ever made that stars Sylvester Stallone, Whoopi Goldberg, and Jackie Chan.

In a series of flashbacks, we see what led up to the events and then how they later unfolded, including Smithee seeking protection from two black filmmakers, Dion (COOLIO) and Leon Brothers (CHUCK D). While these two men then serve as Smithee's representation, James and Jerry try to figure out how they can get back their film.

The three bigger stars (Stallone, Goldberg, and Chan, who don't have very large parts) may draw in some teens, but this film will probably only play to those who are big fans of the moviemaking process.
For strong language and some sexual humor.
This being a mock documentary, obviously no one is meant to be taken seriously. Even so, Sly Stallone, Whoopi Goldberg, and Jackie Chan play themselves and use the "f" word several times in a scene from their movie, and both Stallone and Goldberg smoke cigars. Coolie and Chuck D play stereotypical "hood" characters who don't do much more than say "motherf*cker" and other profanities whenever they can. The three main characters (played by O'Neal, Jeni, and Idle) probably wouldn't make most parents' top lists of role models either.


OUR TAKE: 0 out of 10
In the late 1960s, the Director's Guild of America (DGA) created a pseudonym for directors who no longer wished to be associated with any film that they directed. For whatever reason -- be it losing control to producers or just hating the finished product -- the name Alan Smithee would then replace the director's name in the final credits. A little known cinematic tidbit (beyond those in the industry or knowledgeable film fans), the name has been used on thirty-some films featured on both the big and small screens. While you may have heard of a few of the them (1996's "Hellraiser: Bloodline"), most are obscure titles ("Gypsy Angels," "Solar Crisis," etc...) that barely saw the light of day let alone a film projector.

That's the kickoff point of "An Alan Smithee Film: Burn, Hollywood, Burn" that now allegedly falls itself into this "esteemed" list of films. Reportedly after screenwriter Joe Ezsterhas got to perform his own "final cut" on the film, the director, Arthur Hiller, asked for the name change after seeing the finished product. Whether he'll steal the film and try to burn remains to be seen, but that might not be a bad idea.

The picture seemingly has two objectives. The first deals with the scenario of ("what if") a director's real name was Alan Smithee and he wanted to remove his name from a film with which he wasn't happy. It's a mildly amusing thought, but something that would play better as a three or four minute skit and not a feature length movie. To make up for that, Eszterhas ("Basic Instinct," "Showgirls") -- a man known industry wide for having many run-ins with the powers that be -- added the idea of creating a scathing look at how Hollywood really works. Unfortunately, neither objective is close to succeeding.

Filmed in a mock documentary shooting style, this film is a horrendous abomination of movie making. If anyone involved in it has any self-respect, the film (if it ever gets anything more than a token release) should list the name Alan Smithee for every cast and crew credit. Yes, it's that bad. While there's always been the debate about life imitating art or vice-versa, one can only hope that life will do the imitating here and someone will grab this film and burn it before anyone in the public is exposed to its inane, banal qualities. As Eric Idle's character says in this production, "If we love film, then we have the responsibility to protect the world from bad ones." It's too bad no one involved with this film strongly felt the same way, but we're here to warn you.

It could have been so much better, considering the "horror stories" that Eszterhas and others have probably and sometimes reportedly experienced. Obviously, one can't help but compare this film to Robert Altman's brilliant "The Player," a film that not only succeeded at exposing and/or making fun of the movie making industry, but also entertained both those inside and outside it. Whereas that feature was brilliantly written and acted, this "film" is an imbecilic piece of moviemaking in just about anyway you can imagine.

There are so many problems with it that it's hard to find a place to begin, but let's start with the plot, or lack thereof. Instead of the film telling us a story, we get a movie that shows characters telling us about the story. Twice removed from the events, this documentary style possibly could have worked, but only if it were clever and/or funny, neither of which it nears being. Since there's no real cohesive plot (beyond a skeleton around which the characters discuss events), the audience could care less about what transpires. Had it been humorous or presented as a brief sketch, one could overlook that sin, but as a feature length film it's quite deadly.

Instead of telling a story, we get to hear one character directly tell us about another, who then adamantly denies what the first just said, resulting in the feeling that you've just unfortunately stepped into a roomful of crybabies and deniers. None of it's remotely funny and the lame attempts at humor constantly fall flat every time.

Whenever the film introduces us to another character, whether they're playing themselves or a fictitious creation, a collection of phrases appears on the screen describing that person. For Sly Stallone we get (among others), "Rocket Scientist," "Brain Surgeon," etc...; for Jackie Chan (the Hong Kong martial arts star) we get "Linguist"; and for Whoopi Goldberg there's "Ted Danson Fan." Then there's the hilarious bit where the writing claims these people are feminists or "have slept" or "want to sleep in" the White House. Man, that's some funny stuff -- did Eszterhas get paid by the word for that?

The film makers also thought it would be funny to see ex-Monty Python star Eric Idle in a mental asylum with strains of "Rock a Bye Baby" in the background or having him act out "The Itsy, Bitsy Spider" routine. Then there's that hilarious bit where the characters played by O'Neal and Jeni rapidly throttle punching bags while simultaneously spouting profanities. I could barely contain myself. Or the funny scene where the same two guys walk in their new tennis shoes that must not fit because they're walking funny. Oh, I forgot about the silly character names such as Aloe Vera or the Brothers brothers. And one will never forget the knee slapping moment when we get to see Eric Idle sitting on the toilet with his pants around his ankles.

One of the bigger sins was making a film that only film buffs or those in the industry would get, and then topping that off by not making any of that funny either. The film agency mentioned here is TAA (instead of the real CAA) and we get to see glimpses of real filmmakers the public doesn't know such as screenwriters Shane Black and Joe Eszterhas (the man responsible for this) and producer Robert Evans. The people that do show up and whom the public will identify include Larry King (who must have a contractual obligation to appear in at least half a dozen films per year) and O.J. trial lawyer Robert Shapiro -- two really funny guys.

Then there's "Trio," the mock film inside this film. Original versions of the script had Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis appearing alongside Sly Stallone, but those two quickly smelled this dead horse before getting on it. Replacing them are Whoopi Goldberg and Jackie Chan -- two of the world's biggest stars! Now, I understand the joke is supposed to include that these three less than stellar box office stars (yes, even Stallone who hasn't had a hit in eons) would be cast in the "most expensive" film ever made, but it's just not funny. Are we really supposed to laugh when each star turns around and while firing a weapon says "f*ck you?" And what's the deal with scenes from "Trio" actually showing footage taken from the movie, "Die Hard 3?"

To show how truly bad the film is, the out-takes included during the end credit role -- often the funniest moments in some movies -- aren't any more funny than the main film itself. Sure, we get to see the actors cutting up for goofing up a line, but the audience will just sit there dumbfounded that any of this is supposed to be entertaining. Of course I'm making the assumption that a) anyone will actually see this film, b) that they'll still be in the theater during the credits if they did manage to sit through the whole thing, and c) that if so, they didn't suffer irreparable brain damage.

When this film was screened, director Arthur Hiller (an Academy Award nominee for 1970's "Love Story" who later made 1996's horrible "Carpool" and now this atrocity) was listed as "Alan Smithee in the film's credits. While I initially thought that was supposed to be an inside joke, it's now perfectly understandable. Short of stealing the film and burning it, Hiller should run away and never look back. If you want to see a brilliantly made film about the inner-workings of Hollywood, go rent "The Player." While it's only the beginning of 1998, I'll go out on a limb and say that you'll be hard pressed to find any film that could possibly be worse than this one. With the more appropriate title of "An Alan Smithee Film: Burn! Film! Burn!," we give this thud a 0 out of 10.

Although it's doubtful many kids (or adults) will see this film, here's a brief summary of the content. Profanity is extreme with more than 100 "f' words and an assortment of others. There's some brief nudity as well as some implied sexual behavior (for instance, a car door mostly blocks the view of an oral sex scene). In addition, there's some smoking and drinking and a few references to drug use, but we don't see any. Should someone in your home wish to see this film, we suggest that you take a look through the material to determine whether it's appropriate or not.

  • A cartoon graffiti character smokes what looks like a joint.
  • Some people have drinks in the background of a bar.
  • Glasses of wine sit in front of Jackie Chan and others.
  • Smithee's wife and her cousin drink wine with dinner.
  • James and Jerry have wine.
  • Alan's wife finishes a drink in a bar.
  • A woman refers to James and his mindset and says, "He smoked a joint but it didn't do any good. He snorted coke, but it didn't do any good." Moments later, James denies ever doing drugs. There is, however, another reference to him doing that again.
  • Some people drink at a reception.
  • The Brothers brothers have drinks.
  • None.
  • Nothing in the film is meant to be taken seriously, but here's what happens.
  • The producers take control of Alan's film and in response he steals it and threatens to destroy it.
  • While the film is somewhat intended as a spoof, it presents two black film makers as guys from "the hood" who take up most of their time repeatedly using the "f' word with "mother" preceding it.
  • None.
  • Handguns: Fired by several characters into targets featuring other people's faces. James also brings one to a meeting and tries to draw it, but Jerry stops him.
  • Guns: Fired by Stallone, Goldberg, and Chan in a clip from the movie.
  • Handgun: Seen in a graffiti drawing.
  • Phrases: "Bitch" (toward a woman and several men), "Sluts," "Scum," "Idiot," "Bugger," "Wise ass," "Balls" (testicles), "Bloody," "Bastard," "Laid" (sexual), "Schmuck," "Bad ass," "Ho'" (whore), "Nuts" (crazy), "Shut the "f" up," "Jive ass," "Putz," "Kiss my ass," "Kiss my black ass," and "Sucked."
  • None.
  • A few scenes have just a tiny bit of suspenseful music in them.
  • Heard in various songs were the "f" word (also used with "mother"), hell, and "bitch."
  • Another song deals with "condoms for Christmas..."
  • At least 101 "f" words (27 using "mother," 2 written, and 1 used sexually), 30 "s" words, 1 slang term for female genitals (the "p" word), 17 asses (1 using "hole"), 9 hells, 3 S.O.B.'s, 2 damns, and 5 uses of "God," 3 of "G-damn," 2 of "Jesus" and 1 of "Oh Christ" as exclamations.
  • Sly Stallone talks about his and Talia Shire's characters in "Rocky" having a child although we never saw them sleep together. He refers to it as the "immaculate ejection."
  • We see some cartoon bare breasts in a graffiti drawing.
  • A few titles on the screen read: "Act One: Missionary Position -- Act Two: Whips and Chains -- Act Three: Doggie Style."
  • A title on the screen for screenwriter Joe Eszterhas says, "Penile implant."
  • We see a woman's head bobbing up and down in James' lap (implying oral sex) as he talks to the camera (and later climaxes).
  • We see part of a woman's cleavage.
  • James tells us that he told Alan that he "needs to get laid." Later, a woman with Alan takes his walking stick and caresses and kisses it like it was a certain part of his anatomy. It's later implied that they had sex.
  • A woman refers to James and his mindset and says, "We tried sex but it didn't do any good."
  • We see a woman suggestively posing for a photo shoot in just her underwear and bra.
  • A character makes the comment, "It doesn't matter how much you come, it's how long you tingle."
  • In the closing credits, a woman opens her shirt (her back is to us) and shows Ryan O'Neal her bare breasts. We see the side of one of them.
  • Playing themselves, Sly Stallone and Whoopi Goldberg smoke cigars.
  • Jerry and the Brothers brothers smoke cigars, while James just has an unlit one in his mouth.
  • A few other minor characters smoke.
  • None.
  • How the people involved could possibly have made a movie as bad as this.
  • James punches a reporter from the National Enquirer.
  • James goes to draw his gun while meeting with the Brothers brothers, but Jerry stops him.

  • Reviewed January 28, 1998

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