WHAT JUST HAPPENED?(Barry Levinson). 106 minutes. Opens Friday (October 31). For venues and times, see Movies. Rating: NN
Barry Levinson's What Just Happened? takes producer Art Linson's engaging memoir of his exploits as a big-?time Hollywood player and turns it into an utterly mediocre showbiz comedy.
Robert De Niro races around Los Angeles with a BlackBerry pressed to his ear, juggling post-?production on a troubled thriller and pre-?production on a Bruce Willis movie that's endangered by the star having grown a Grizzly Adams beard since getting the part.
Levinson and De Niro clearly believe in the project, and called in a lot of favours to get it made. The problem is that the movie is just so flat that it's hard to invest in any of the characters. De Niro's Linson surrogate, Ben, is a reflexive liar and a general douchebag, but then so is everyone else around him.
Worse, nothing particularly funny happens - certainly nothing as funny as Linson's story in the book about seeing The Untouchables with screenwriter David Mamet. The gags about agents with ulcers and producers constantly yammering into telephone headsets were played out decades ago.
Still, it's not the worst movie Levinson has made about the empty, callous nature of Hollywood, and you can't really blame it for being small-?time when the biggest moral dilemma is whether or not Willis will shave.
When it turns up on DVD, you might even crack a smile.