The Muse review

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With his snappy wit, cuddly neuroses and relationship obsession, Albert Brooks is frequently called the West Coast Woody Allen. A pretty accurate description, except that Brooks has never been as incisive or stimulating as the Woodman, nor his output as prodigious. Which isn't to say he hasn't made some very funny movies: Lost In America, his tale of an upwardly mobile couple who swap cosy yuppiedom for touring the country in a big Winnebago, is one of the best American comedies of the '80s. But Brooks' first out-and-out Hollywood satire is a shapeless affair lacking his earlier spark and ingenuity.

With Brooks as Steven, a once-thriving screenwriter whose creative muse has deserted him, this is patently a case of art imitating life. The problem is that Stone's Sarah lavishes her musey inspiration on seemingly everyone but Steven, who is relegated to moping on the sidelines, little more than a downtrodden errand boy.

With comic and sexual tension between the hapless scribe and his unwanted house guest almost non-existent, there isn't much else to pick up the slack. Sluggish direction also hampers proceedings, as scenes which should have been laugh-riots fizzle out like soggy fuses.

On the plus side, there are a couple of jaunty, Tinseltown-jabbing exchanges (lunch with a pitilessstudio exec, a gibberish conversation with a European restaurateur) and amusing cameos from James Cameron and Martin Scorsese. Stone also displays a light comic touch as the dippy, demanding muse. But she doesn't have enough to sink her teeth into, while Bridges is wasted in the part of Brooks' Oscar-winning crony. By the time the final inane twist arrives, you're left feeling the way Brooks acts throughout the film - completely deflated.

Brooks goes for the soft option in his bland and overly cutesy Hollywood satire, making a good case that perhaps he should think about sticking to the acting career from now on. We are most certainly not a-mused.

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