By Noah Lopez

Arizona Daily Wildcat

It's an enigma how a director with such fine films under his belt as "Avalon," "Diner" and "Bugsy" could also be responsible for the shlockfests of "Toys," "Good Morning Vietnam" and "The Natural."

As if to soften this disparity, Barry Levinson has maintained a solid middle ground of mediocre comedy _ "Tin Men," "Young Sherlock Holmes" _ to which "Jimmy Hollywood" must be added.

There isn't anything completely bad about "Jimmy Hollywood," and by no means does it reach the horrid depths of "Toys." Instead, "Jimmy Hollywood" suffers from a feeling that the audience has seen it all before.

Levinson chooses to depict the dog-eat-dog atmosphere of Hollywood two years after Robert Altman did it superbly in "The Player." If the audience wants a movie with semi-autobiographical ties to Levinson, "Diner" and "Avalon" are markedly better, and much more interesting. Joe Pesci's role as a cheeseball egomaniac isn't much of a stretch either.

Formula isn't something new to Hollywood, but at its best it should have some twists to make it moderately interesting. "Jimmy Hollywood" fails to break away from formula until its end, by which time the viewer is completely bored.

Jimmy Alto (Joe Pesci) is an out-of-work, middle-aged acting hopeful. He has never worked in the industry, and because of his demand for only a principal role, he probably never will. Levinson ploddingly attempts to paint how Alto goes about getting acting work the wrong way; whether it's Alto's purchase of advertising space on a bus bench, which Levinson shows time and time again for emphasis, or a scene where Alto attempts to work at a moderately busy cafe, the results border on painful.

The viewer never gets a grip on the futility that Jimmy Alto must feel, in part because it doesn't really look like he's missing much. In Levinson's Hollywood, out-of-work actors have pull-out stereos, big-screen TVs, high tech camcorders, fax machines, guns, Sony Watchman's, etc. When Alto's stereo is stolen, he and his omnipresent sidekick William (Christian Slater playing a Keanu Reeves type of role) form a guerilla organization aimed to stomp out street crime.

Although Levinson flies into overkill in showing the guerilla band stopping crime, it never overcomes the sheer unbelievability of it all. By the time Jimmy Alto comes to terms with the fact that his life is going nowhere, it seems too forced and leaves the viewer, again, unaffected.

This feeling of apathy regarding the characters, their lives and their actions, bog down the film. Slater and Pesci have some funny parts early on, but its not enough to prevent "Jimmy Hollywood" from drowning in mediocrity.

"Jimmy Hollywood" is currently playing at El Dorado Cinemas, 745-6241, and Century Park 12 Theaters, 620-0750. Read Next Article