Albert Brooks, Sharon Stone, Andie MacDowell, Jeff Bridges

The latest self-obsessed comedy cowritten, directed by and starring Brooks (Mother), The Muse starts off sharply entertaining but ends up nearly as vacuous and narcissistic as the Hollywood community it so gleefully lampoons.

Brooks plays a whining, middle-aged screenwriter who, after his latest script is rejected, turns for creative inspiration to a woman who claims to be a genuine daughter of Zeus (Stone). In exchange for tossing a few story ideas his way, she expects Brooks to pony up baubles from Tiffany's, a suite at the Four Seasons and to be at her beck and call 24/7—all of which understandably miffs his loving wife (MacDowell). Is this muse worth it? You bet, say such satisfied customers as Rob Reiner, James Cameron and Martin Scorsese, who grovel before Stone in amusing cameos.

Although many of Brooks's jabs hit ("Being a screenwriter in Hollywood is like being a eunuch at an orgy," his character kvetches. "The only difference is that eunuchs get to watch, and I'm not even invited on the set."), his preening targets (agents, studio execs) are easy pickings. Stone, stuck playing a conceit rather than a character, proves herself game but can't really do much besides switch from one bad hairdo to another. (PG-13)

Bottom Line: Funny, but wears out its welcome

Omar Epps, LL Cool J, Nia Long

Like its protagonist, In Too Deep wants to have it both ways. The tale of an undercover cop (Epps) in Cincinnati who finds himself drawn to the thug life, the movie lectures about the evils of drugs and violence while going out of its way to showcase blood-spattered scenes that chronicle everything from sexual assault with a pool cue to the involuntary removal of one character's tongue. It's all as ugly as it sounds.

These scenes are included, presumably, so that there will be no misunderstanding about the villainous nature of the perpetrator of most of these crimes, a powerful drug dealer who calls himself God (Cool J). He may use the deity's tag, but his obvious role model is the Godfather, as he dispenses favors and turkey dinners to the neighborhood while finding time to stand proudly in church during his son's baptism. In his best movie role to date, rapper Cool J portrays a character who is equal parts savvy and menace. Despite Cool J's violent side, it's easy to understand why Epps finds himself conflicted about where his loyalties lie. How it all plays out, however, is nothing but tales of the expected. (R)

Bottom Line: Violent, yes, deep, no

Brendan Fraser, Sarah Jessica Parker, Alfred Molina

There are certain movie concepts that strike a spark in the public imagination and flare up into a blaze of anticipation and hype. This summer's examples are obvious: Tom and Nicole in Stanley Kubrick's final project; the latest installment in that adventure set in a galaxy far, far away; and, finally, this live-action version of the old TV cartoon about a dumb, handsome Canadian Mountie. Yes, Dudley Do-Right is here at last, with Brendan Fraser in the title role, Sarah Jessica Parker as his sweetheart, Nell, and Alfred Molina as Dudley's nemesis, Snidely Whiplash.

And, like Eyes Wide Shut and The Phantom Menace before it, Dudley Do-Right must be judged a disappointment. It's not remotely as cute, funny or smart as George of the Jungle, the 1997 live-action adaptation that had Fraser swinging from vines and smacking into trees.

Still, as written and directed by Hugh Wilson (The First Wives Club), Dudley is probably as good a human version of the 1960s original as anyone else could have come up with. The cartoon is a send-up of old-fashioned melodrama, with Nell routinely tied to a railway and Whiplash, his head topped with a tall black hat, twirling his mustache. The movie, set in the modern world, gives Dudley his own sports utility vehicle, includes appearances by Regis Philbin and Kathie Lee Gilford and features a number that parodies Ireland's Riverdance, only this time performed by an Indian tribe called the Kumquats. Fraser and Parker play their parts with the right note of sweet vacuity. If not quite out to lunch, they're definitely thinking about it. Same goes for the movie. (PG)

Bottom Line: Not much a-Do

>BOWFINGER For an end of summer pick-me-up, there's no beating Steve Martin's clever, sprightly satire about moviemaking. Eddie Murphy, playing dual roles as both a Hollywood action star and his klutzy double, nearly steals the picture. (PG-13)

THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR Rene Russo's gutsy performance and a dazzling final heist scene are reason enough to catch this glossy romantic thriller. She plays an insurance investigator, and Pierce Brosnan is the art thief she's investigating. (R)

THE BUENA VISTA SOCIAL CLUB A documentary from director Wim Wenders, this musically joyous film chronicles an aging, long-forgotten group of Havana musicians, who offer energetic, melodious proof of the value of living la vida loca. (No rating)

  • Contributors:
  • Tom Gliatto.