Movie Magazine International

An Alan Smithee Film - Burn, Hollywood, Burn

USA - 1997

Movie Review By Andrea Chase

A wise person once said if you enjoy sausages, you should never see how they're made. It's disgusting. The same could be said of moviemaking and the reason why is explained by Joe "Showgirls" Eszterhas as he brings his unique perspective to " An Alan Smithee Film- Burn, Hollywood, Burn."

It recounts the debacle that ensued when humble film editor Alan Smithee was chosen to direct the most expensive movie ever made, a bloated blockbuster starring Whoopi Goldberg, Jackie Chan, and Sylvester Stallone. Why Smitthee? He can be 'controlled.' Read that bullied by the stars, producers, and probably the caterer. Problem is that Smithee has integrity, a concept beyond comprehension in an industry where out of control egos and bad ideas are kept in check only by other out of control egos and even worse ideas.

When Smithee, played by wide-eyed Eric Idle, is robbed of his film's final cut, he does what any right thinking person would do. He steals the negative. As he sees it, it's his duty to spare audiences another rotten film.

We've seen Hollywood expose itself before with "The Big Picture," "The Player," and the vicious, "Swimming with the Sharks." But "Burn" is pure vitriol. It's hard to know whom to root for. There are so many slimy amoral scumbags, each worse than the last. And if the mighty are brought low, far from being a career blow, that's become the smartest career move in Tinseltown. It's depressing.

The players, some, like Stallone and Robert Evans, playing themselves, speak directly to the camera, explaining their side of the story. And backstabbing in Hollywood being what it is, there are more sides to this fiasco than a double dodecahedron. This gives rise to the flick's running gag, celebrities smugly parodying their egos. But isn't that in itself a monumental display of hubris? It made me wonder. I know what the joke is, you know what the joke is, but do they?

I only ask because when celebrity lawyer Robert Shapiro surfaced towards the end, my jaw dropped. What in the name of Rodeo Drive was he thinking? Then I thought, why am I shocked? Have I learned nothing from this flick?

"An Alan Smithee Film - Burn, Hollywood, Burn" is like a grotesque fairy tale, the kind that the Brothers Grimm wrote before censors took their scissors to them for what they considered our own good. The disquieting part is how fascinating it is to watch. Or worse, how much fun I thought it all was.

© 1998 - Andrea Chase - Air Date: 2/25/98

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