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Stars: Catherine O'Hara, Harry Shearer, Parker Posey, Eugene Levy, Ed Begley Jr, Christopher Guest, Jennifer Coolidge, Ricky Gervais, Paul Dooley, Bob Balaban, Craig Bierko, Christopher Moynihan, Larry Miller, Claire Forlani, Fred Willard, Jane Lynch, John Michael Higgins

Director: Christopher Guest

Britain's Ricky Gervais keeps popping up with cameos in Hollywood films, but his portrait of a film studio boss here is too much in the same vein as his museum manager in Night at the Museum. As his TV series Extras shows, the man is much more versatile than his present film output would suggest.

Otherwise, there are equal portions of chuckles and yawns in this satire on Hollywood and its obsession with the Oscars. O'Hara stars as Marilyn Hack, a past-it actress starring in an indescribably awful Jewish/Georgian magnolia melodrama called Home for Purim.

Somehow, buzz gets around that Marilyn and two of her equally inept co-stars (Shearer, Posey) may be nominated for Academy Awards. And suddenly the actors find themselves talk show celebrities.

Alas, subsequent proceedings are only intermittently funny, chiefly because the film-within-a-film is just too bad to be true. But a big compensation arrives with the performance of Willard as a centre-bequiffed talk show host who starts his programmes with 'Good morning, America - and anyone else who understands the king's English', regales his audience with such non-PC jokes as 'You know what they say about blind prostitutes - you've gotta hand it to them' and never loses his fake smile.

Elsewhere O'Hara and Coolidge compete in middle-age cleavage, and one character probably has it about right when he says that 'In every actor there lives a tiger, a pig, an ass and a nightingale. You never know which one is going to show up.' Asses here, that's for sure.

David Quinlan

USA 2006. UK Distributor: Warner Brothers. Technicolor.
86 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 11 Feb 2007