Burn Hollywood Burn Review

As grand an idea as this final Alan Smithee feature focuses on, burning down Hollywood is not a possibility. The logistics are a nightmare for such a project, as it was for this Eric Idle-led feature. A film about a director trying to take his name off of a bad film, directed by a man who took his name off of a bad film. The irony is not lost on this all-star cast of cameos. Arthur Hiller may have removed his name from the “Directed by” credits found within, but he will stand the test of time on the Wikipedia page, a place that dedicates three lines to the entire plot, and does a better job of describing it than Hiller’s work manages here.

The irony goes further, with Idle playing Alan Smithee, a director who wants to scrub his name off of an awful picture. The pseudonym Alan Smithee was, for a time, used as a placeholder for those too embarrassed to hold their name to a piece of shoddy work. Hilarity must, inevitably, ensue. But it doesn’t, and it is why Hiller is so keen to remove his name from this piece and everyone within it is happy to forget it ever happened. Who would’ve thought crafting a comedy would be such a grand risk and massive embarrassment. What brief moments audiences are shown of the fake feature are far better than the work on offer. A disastrous action feature with Whoopi Goldberg, Sylvester Stallone and Jackie Chan at the helm is far more interesting than a piece involving Eric Idle muddling his way through a concerning path of documentary-like focus.

It is a blur that has been seen plenty of times before. Documentarians taking on the fictional world. This is Spinal Tap did it fine enough, but Burn Hollywood Burn fails to find the humour in it. Labelling producers as liars and scumbags, bringing out the mania of a director confined to the Keith Moon Psychiatrist Hospital and the stars who do not fear death or bad movies, Burn Hollywood Burn does not quite get to the criticism it so often hints at. It is a grim and forgettable rendition of The Player, but at least the Tim Robbins-led feature had consequence and heart. All Idle can do in this piece is turn up the mania, which he does thankfully well in the brief pockets he is given.

A film so brutal and terrible that on the day of its release, Cinergi Pictures, the company behind it, shut its doors. It has the bleak stigma of being a late 1990s American comedy with fine quality performers and poorly aged cameos. Boring characters talk to a shaking camera and the excitement escapes through the back door. Attempting to improve upon the variety and social commentary observed in the Hollywood realm of The Player, Hiller crafts a horrid piece of film here, one that is best forgotten. Burn Hollywood Burn bankrupt a studio, turned the director of The In-Laws into a laughing stock, yet provides Idle with some fine comedy work, tailor-made to his stylings. It’s a shame there isn’t more of that, and less of everything else.

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