The Brunching Shuttlecocks Features

Oh, for a Muse of fire.

On second thought, screw that. Give me a Muse in the form of the ever-hot babe, Sharon Stone. Now we're talking!

As you may have surmised, I am talking about the latest Albert Brooks Film du Jour, The Muse. Brooks stars as a frustrated writer who's lost his edge, so he enlists the help of one of the mythological Greek Muses, in the form of the lovely and oddly-coifed Sharon Stone. Seems this Muse has been hanging around Hollywood giving inspiration to the likes of James Cameron, Rob Reiner and Martin Scorsese (each of whom appears in the movie) and now it's Al's turn.

The plot is, as it sounds, cute. A minor snicker. And that's the way most of the film plays out. As one minor snicker after another. No real belly-laughs, no real guffaws, no true knee-slappers. But lots of minor snickers.

And if you think about it, there should be a lot more than minor snickers involved here. Sharon Stone is a mythological Muse. Her dad's Zeus. Gimmie a thunderbolt or two from the sky! Bring on the wrath of the Gods! That's comedy! Sadly, the wrath of the Gods is replaced by the wrath of Al's incessant whining.

If you like Albert Brooks and his incessant whining, you'll probably like this. If Albert Brooks and his incessant whining make you want to chew loose power cables, you may want to skip this one.

Also, if you don't live in LA, you may want to skip this one. Living in LA, it's always fun to recognize every single location used in a movie, but living in Topeka, I would expect a lot of the joy is lost in the translation.

The movie truly defines itself in the performances of the two female leads: Sharon Stone and Andie MacDowell.

Miss Stone is wonderful. She's very funny, very pretty, very quick, and very adorable as this pampered, spoiled Muse who expects to be given tokens of appreciation from Tiffany's and stay in the best hotels. If she calls you at 2 in the morning, you'd better be ready to perform whatever errand she desires, or she'll leave. What makes her character especially charming is the fact that she works. She inspires. Everyone. And when you think about it, if the Greek Muses were alive today, they'd probably look a lot like Sharon Stone.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum is Andie MacDowell. Or maybe they just forgot to remove the life-sized plastic cut-out of her they used to set up the camera angles. You really can't tell a difference. Poor Andie is really not a good actress, and while she's shown hints of just how bad she is throughout her career, she's never really gone out and flashed it to the world like this before. I mean she was cute in Four Weddings and a Funeral, but think, she spent most of that movie being admired from afar. She wasn't horrible in Sex, Lies and Videotape, but her character was a cold, unemotional woman, and she seems to do that pretty well. Alas, in this film they want her to emote, and Andie is sadly not up to the task. I've seen more emotion in a loofah.

And so goes the film. What makes it really horrible is that you can see that it was ALMOST a really good movie. It's smart, and while it sets itself up for some obvious jokes and situations, it resists the temptation to go down those roads. However, it also resists the temptation to go down any other roads, so you spend a lot of time at the intersection waiting for the light to change.

Take the ending. No, I won't give anything away, but the darned thing ends too soon. As if Al decided that the movie was long enough, and it was now time to end it in 2 pages or less. I sat in the theater thinking, "What? Then what happened? What about this plot point you introduced five minutes ago? What about...? Oh screw it, let's go get some pizza."

This movie really needed some pizza. I mean even the attempts at slapstick were controlled, orderly. Heck, if I wanted an evening of mild snickers, I'd have rented a Noel Coward flick. Everything oozed the desire to be really intelligent. And it was quite intelligent, but I could have used some serious comedy.

Actually, the film Al becomes inspired to write, an aquarium comedy that is meant to star Jim Carrey, sounds a hell of a lot funnier than this movie. Maybe he should have just made that one instead.

The Muse gets 3 Babylons. It's not horrible, but it could have been. It's not great, but it could have been. It just is.

Editor's Note:

As far as I'm concerned, after "Lost in America", Albert Brooks could do a disco remake of Gunga Din and I'd go on the opening night. A little trivia here: all dedicated Albert Brooks fans know his silly real name, but did you know that he's also got a silly famous brother! If you don't know, look it up on that new-fangled Internet. It's fascinating.

The Muse
Rated: PG-13
Directed By: Albert Brooks
Starring: Albert Brooks, Sharon Stone, Andie MacDowell and Jeff Bridges. But sadly, no Jim Carrey. Such an oversight.

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