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For Your Consideration (5/10)

by Tony Medley

To enjoy this, you have to be a fan of Christopher Guest. For the record, I was not a fan of “The Big Wind,” his last effort, which was an unfunny, silly putdown of folk music revivals.

This one is about an indie film, “Purim,” that collects Oscar buzz and how that affects everyone involved. When an item on the Internet speculates that three of the actors in the film, faded luminary Marilyn Hack (Catherine O’Hara), journeyman actor and former hot dog pitchman Victor Allan Miller (Harry Shearer), and ingénue Callie Webb (Parker Posey) are giving Oscar-deserving performances, everyone gets excited. Unit publicist Corey Taft (John Michael Higgins), agent Morley Orfkin (Eugene Levy), and producer Whitney Taylor Brown (Jennifer Coolidge) jump on the bandwagon, along with the studio president Martin Gibb (Ricky Gervais), who butts into the production with suggestions for script changes, which greatly alarm the screenwriters, Lane Iverson (Michael McKean) and Philip Koontz (Bob Balaban). All of this excitement is exacerbated by the airhead, voluble hosts of an ET-type TV show, “Hollywood Now,” Chuck Porter (Fred Willard) and Cindy Martin (Jane Lynch).

Guest’s “scripts” are really just outlines as he lets the actors wing it. There is at least one amusing character, Chuck, played by Willard, who is at his best.

This is a satire, not meant to be serious. I thought that the acting and characterizations of Hollywood types were good, but I didn’t think that the movie was that funny. I was in a full house screening at Culver studios and people were laughing. I figure one of two things. Either they were shills or the jokes at which they were laughing were so esoteric, so inside Hollywood, that I didn’t get them. I only laughed once, and that was really just a chuckle.

There was one terrific put down of PBS talk show host Charley Rose in which two of the actors in “Purim” are being interviewed by an unnamed Talk Show Host (Craig Bierko) who goes on a Rose-type monologue to show how much he knows without allowing either of the actors to utter a word.

The film is populated by Guest-film regulars, like Ed Begley, Jr., Levy, Shearer, Balaban, Willard and others.

There’s nothing ground-breaking here and there’s nothing much funny. This really doesn’t set it apart from Guest’s prior work. He has a good idea; he just doesn’t have what it takes to make the idea funny. The best I can say for this is that a Guest fan might find it moderately entertaining.

November 2, 2006