The Muse (PG-13)
According to Greek legend, all man's creativity is inspired by the Muses, nine beautiful daughters of Zeus. Aoede is the Muse of song, Calliope of philosophy, Mneme of memory. There's even a Muse, Melete, responsible for practice, the bugbear of many aspiring artists.
I'm not sure which of these babes Albert Brooks called upon to write his latest comedy, The Muse, but he could have used just a little more help from Thalia, Muse of comedy. While the movie has a great premise and some funny scenes, it falls short of a good comedic romp.
The Muse aspires to be a sendup of the vacuousness of Hollywood, where established screenwriter Steven Phillips (Albert Brooks) is finding that he's losing his "edge," and therefore his job at Paramount Pictures.
Desperate to keep his position, as well as his Mercedes, nice home and pretty wife (Andie MacDowell), Steven turns to his best friend Jack (Jeff Bridges) to learn the secret of Jack's success. Jack lets him on a secret: He's been adopted by a Muse, a genuine daughter of Zeus named Sarah (Sharon Stone).
Stone does a good job of playing the capricious 20th century Muse who falls to pieces when she can't get a Waldorf salad in the middle of the night, and who coldly calculates the value of a Tiffany's gift. Her blatant materialism hits just the right note in the land of Rodeo Drive and makes it clear that having a Muse take up residence in your house is not all it is cracked up to be.
Brooks' character, Steven, is less engaging -- he comes across as a whiner, and whining isn't funny.
The film is sprinkled with a merry assortment of Hollywood personalities, from Rob Reiner to Martin Scorcese to James Cameron, all of whom, we're told, got their inspiration from the Muse. This kind of post-modern use of celebrities-as-characters is mildly entertaining, but soon grows tiring for all but the most ardent Hollywood buff. (I hereby call a moratorium on all future film appearances by Wolfgang Puck. He may make good pizzas, but the man's such a terrible actor he can't even play himself.) Interestingly, the spot-the-star game undermines Brooks' attempt at Hollywood lampoon and brings it perilously close to celebrity homage.
Despite the great promise of this film, including some terrific one-liners, The Muse falls flat. Brooks misses a great opportunity to critique the insanity at the heart of the moviemaking industry. Instead, he stops short at a superficial tour of Hollywood, capped by a clumsy deus ex machina ending. The film lacks the very edge it purports to desire, eschewing a sharp critique of Hollywood for a few passable but prosaic laughs.