An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn – Review


Joe Eszterhas, how much more proud of yourself can you be when you write the main joke about your main character’s film being “worse than Showgirls?” I’m one to defend Showgirls as a misunderstood cult classic, but I cannot fathom any sort of defense towards this if I tried. Never have I seen satire so lazily executed and so satisfied in itself, it simply falls flat on practically ever level which it is attempting to reach. I think it would have become clear when the film’s real director, Arthur Hiller, had distanced himself as much as he possibly could from this film and quite ironically, used the Alan Smithee pseudonym. Yet was Hiller’s use of the Smithee pseudonym an attempt at meta for Joe Eszterhas, who recut the film by himself? If so, that’s simply a pathetic way to hide what Hiller would have figured out, because I wouldn’t imagine him wanting to have his name attached to something so poor in all regard.

Eric Idle as “Alan Smithee.”

The whole idea to which we have to this film is simple, in which we have directors whom after not wanting to associate themselves with a bad film, they put the name “Alan Smithee” on the final product. So, what if this “Alan Smithee” was a real person? It’s the sheer fact that the resolution to such an idea is so simple, much to the point, this movie could not even have happened at all to where everything so clearly falls dreadfully flat. I’ve seen tons of films within my own life but I don’t know how exactly something so inept like this could have been put out on the screen and have remotely anyone be remotely proud of what has been created at all. Eszterhas’s attempt at cashing in on the production history was certainly a failed scheme, and as one who would be quick to defend his work together with Paul Verhoeven, self-indulgence reeks at some of its very worst in here.

Having your film done in the mockumentary format can add a lot to a comedy especially when it wants to get a point across in the meantime – something which films like This Is Spinal Tap and Borat manage to pull off in an effective manner. An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn is a perfect example of the mockumentary format at some of its very worst – for all that it shows when actors talk to the screen is nothing that adds to a sort of point that the movie even wants to get across. They are only there to throw wise-cracking one liners and none of them add up to anything within the slightest. Aside from that, we have these actors shouting said one liners as a means of telling the audience what is going on, and the presentation is highly condescending. It would be clear already from the scenes showing Eric Idle because they can already form a narrative and not this sort of format, but Joe Eszterhas chose to keep it this way for whatever reason I can’t seem to put my own finger on.

Knowing the interesting idea of the premise, it’s amazing just to think about how none of it ever goes anywhere throughout the running time. What happens instead is Joe Eszterhas wishing to show just how clever he is with the idea that there may indeed be a person whose actual name is “Alan Smithee.” His script beats the audience over the head with the fact this man’s name is Alan Smithee and never once does the film wish to play any insight with the joke about the Alan Smithee pseudonym. The suggestion to which I have at hand is simple, why couldn’t “Alan Smithee” have formed another name to be attached to the film if his real name is already in use by the studios? The witlessness to such a comedy like this is something to which I find beyond insulting because just about every choice within the film’s direction is absolutely wrong in all regard. I know for a fact that Arthur Hiller can be a competent director to handle comedy (The In-Laws for example) but this very much doesn’t feel so much like him in the slightest, as the amateurishness is so glaringly clear.

Possibly the worst offender aside from all the nothingness especially within the movement of the plot is the tastelessness to the humour. Sure, we have most of the jokes falling flat because they are usually formed through wise-cracking one liners that never even land in the slightest, we also have a reference to incest coming down as the worst offender. Something may have been clear already from the suggesting that every woman in their intro card is a feminist (I’m not so sure why it is even established since none of the characters even talked once about the fact they are feminists), but going down and trying to make incest funny for how they handle it in this movie was especially sickening to watch. The presentation of Ryan O’Neal’s character felt as if it was nothing more than an excuse for crassness to be shoved in, for his points are nothing more than mere exposition with him having sex, because apparently sex is funny I would assume.

An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn is a film stretching out a single idea to such an unbearable length by filling everything up with absolute nothingness. Yet even with all of that, it is amazing to think about how incompetently put together it is, whether it range from the sound design to the manner to which it has been edited, practically everything about such a film is in the wrong. I’m usually one who is against the use of outtakes especially inside of a comedy film, but you can look at Sylvester Stallone’s appearances in the credits and see how when he is playing himself, he doesn’t feel as if he is being himself because the words which come out of his mouth don’t end up feeling like him. I can’t fathom how anyone would have wanted to keep their name attached to something so incompetent, but if Joe Eszterhas’s excuse was for the film to be purposely awful and then have the production history be exactly what happened to the film, the best I can even say is that it is an absolutely pathetic attempt at being clever, because remotely nothing insightful can be found at all. I can’t possibly see why something like this was even made to begin with. This is torture in its highest form.

Watch a clip right here.

All images via Buena Vista Pictures Distribution.

Directed by Arthur Hiller (as Alan Smithee)
Screenplay by Joe Eszterhas
Produced by Ben Myron
Starring Eric Idle, Ryan O’Neal
Release Year: 1998
Running Time: 86 minutes


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