An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn!
Rating -

Comedy (US); 1998; Rated R; 99 Minutes

Ryan O'Neal: James Edmunds
Coolio: Dion Brothers
Chuck D: Leon Brothers
Richard Jeni: Jerry Glover
Eric Idle: Alan Smithee
Sylvester Stallone: Himself
Whoopi Goldberg: Herself
Jackie Chan: Himself

Produced by Fred C. Caruso, Ben Myron, Michael Sloan, and Andrew G. Vajna;Directed by Arthur Hiller; Screenwritten by Joe Ezsterhas

NOTE: Director Arthur Hiller wishes to credit himself as "Alan Smithee."

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Written by DAVID KEYES

An Alan Smithee Film Burn Hollywood Burn is one of the most clever bad movies I have seen in my entire life. It has an internal conflict that no one is entertained by, and there’s no characters that anyone cares about. Yet, it is an excellent reflection of what Hollywood faces today: the lack of ideas in the movies, and how those ideas can be stretched beyond the limits.

The film was once a twinkle in the eyes of its writer, Joe Ezsterhas. He wished to write a film which demonstrated his anger at film making: by this, he meant to show the public how actors, directors, producers, and writers are treated in the filming of a movie. He wrote a screenplay entitled an Alan Smithee Film, but later renamed it Burn Hollywood Burn. After director Arthur Hiller picked up the rights to create the film, it was then renamed An Alan Smithee Film Burn Hollywood Burn. Look at that title closely: there’s no punctuation in it.

Now here’s where it gets confusing. Alan Smithee is the alias a director uses on the credits of his film when he wants his name removed from them, either because he hated the way the film turned out, or because he was in conflict with someone in the studio. This alias was made up 28 years ago, and has been used several times in recent years.

Joe Ezsterhas’ screenplay tells the story of a man whose real name is Alan Smithee, and he hates his film, but he can’t remove his name, because the alias is the same thing. The movie then involves Smithee, played by Eric Idle, trying to get the help from fellow members of the studio to try and destroy the copies of the film, which are secretly locked away from his reach. The producer of Smithee’s film is played by Ryan O’Niel, and he is sworn to keep the film away from Smithee at all costs.

There's no real problem with Esztherhas doing this type of film, but when his stars stare at the actual camera when they should be participating in the movie, then you know he’s got it all wrong. His idea to do this story was an anticipation by critics everywhere, because they all know that the people in the studio during the filming of a movie aren’t treated really good. This film was going to get everything out into the open, but Eszterhas must have been angry when he wrote the script, and got sidetracked from writing characters that no one cares about. All the jokes and humor are aimed at people who know the real truth about Alan Smithee, but not very many people are aware of it, so there’s no one that laughs here. I got the jokes, and I didn’t laugh, either.

The film stars Sylvester Stallone, Jackie Chan, Coolio, Chuck D and Whoopie Goldberg as themselves, but on the set, Stallone, Chan, and Goldberg pretend that they are actually celebrity impersonators, and not the real thing. They have no good lines in the real movie whatsoever. Stallone seems to speak in two different tones of voice: one where he sounds normal, as he is looking away from the camera and doesn’t realize it’s there, and another voice when he thinks he knows he is being filmed.

Jackie Chan looks no different in this film than he does in one of his action pictures, but Ms. Goldberg looks like she has lost all of her prospect. In one scene, when she is talking to Smithee at a bar, she has a cigar hanging out of her mouth. When people come up to her and ask her if she is THE Whoopie Goldberg, she tells them she is only a celebrity impersonator. In truth, she is the real thing.

Now here’s something to consider: Arthur Hiller, the real director, disliked the editing of AASFBHB, and took his name off of it, making it a real Alan Smithee film.

Add this to the consideration: in the film, the Smithee character confides in Chuck D and Coolio that the film he is trying to abolish is "worse than ‘Showgirls’." Now Eszterhas wrote "Showgirls," and, sure, it wasn’t a really good movie, but it wasn’t that bad, either.

This film does have a valuable use. After viewing it, I realized that maybe this is what Hollywood is coming to. If they continue having ideas like this one, than the film industry could just go right down the drain. I’m not concluding that it will, but it might be a possibility if ideas like this continue to show up. If they do, the name "Alan Smithee" may be in big use by directors all over the world.

© 1998, David Keyes, Please e-mail the author here if the above review contains any spelling or grammar mistakes.
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