Calling Mount Olympus

The Muse

While admittedly much of what Brooks presents here is knowing and crisply conceived, the material turns out to be far soggier in the execution than perhaps it appeared in the telling or on the page. As a satirist Brooks is able to get in his jabs, but none of his blows against the empire registers with anything approaching lethal ferocity. In Real Life, Modern Romance, and Lost in America, Brooks established himself as the master of neurotic romanticism as well as the funniest clinical depressive of his period. But his last three films -- Defending Your Life, Mother, and now The Muse -- haven't delivered on the promise of the first three.

Goddess Sharon Stone outshines her fellow cast members
Goddess Sharon Stone outshines her fellow cast members

The ending here, during which Sarah is exposed as an escapee from a mental hospital, falls particularly flat. I mean, who cares if she calls herself Alexander the Great? If she can get Rob Reiner and Wolfgang Puck on the phone and your agent can't, she's some kind of deity, isn't she? Let me be clear -- Brooks can still get a laugh out of most of us even when the line isn't all that funny. He has that gift. But it's not as if you don't register the faltering quality of the material even while you're laughing. He's right, too, to echo the movie's premise, that nothing drastic is called for -- just the honing of a concept here, an adjustment in the context there. Nothing that might call for an intervention by the gods.

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