Comedy can be divided into four basic categories: raunchy, slapstick, eighties and intellectual. The raunchy era’s earliest beginnings can be traced back to the absolutely hilarious fart scene in Blazing Saddles, and has since evolved to the gross-out gags of There’s Something About Mary and American Pie. Slapstick is probably the easiest to categorize, originated by the Marx Brothers and carried on by Leslie Nielsen. The eighties films are more general, a broad description of the comedic films of the decade starring the original casts of “Saturday Night Live” and “Second City TV.”
Finally is the intellectual, which includes this summer’s Dick,/i>. The Muse (October Films) desperately wants to fit into this category but doesn’t quite make it.
The Muse stars Albert Brooks (Mother), who also directed the film and wrote the screenplay. In the flick, screenwriter Steven Philips (Brooks) has his contract with Paramount Studios terminated after they tell him his recent scripts have “lost their edge.” The problem is Philips never knew he had an edge, or what it was. And now that he has lost it, he has no idea how to get it back.
Enter Sharon Stone – in what is easily her best performance since Casino – and Jeff Bridges, in a bit part that nicely complements his role in Arlington Road. Stone plays Sara Little, a modern-day descendent of the Greek muses, the nine daughters of Zeus who, according to legend, inspire men to create magnificent works of art. Bridges plays Philips’ friend and confidant. Having recently received the muse’s services himself, he lends her to Philips to jump start his career. To Philips, who at this point is willing to try anything, the muse at first appears to be a godsend.
Unfortunately for Philips, the muse requires lavish gifts from Tiffany’s and suites at the Four Seasons hotel to inspire her clients. Is Sara Little a real muse? Her scheme appears to be paper thin at first, a scam that thinly disguises her true gold-digging intentions. However, Little’s reputation precedes her, as many real-life directors, who play themselves, pay her tribute for her “inspiration.”
Brooks’ script is not compelling enough to make the audience care about the identity of the muse. Stone rises above the mediocre performances around her and manages to look gorgeous despite the kooky outfits and hairstyles.
That being said, there aren’t too many laughs in this movie. Stone does affect everyone around her, including Philips’ wife, Laura (Andie MacDowell, Four Weddings and a Funeral. Laura serves to provide a pointless side plot involving her quest to become the next Mrs. Fields of cookies.
While The Muse?struggles to be an intellectual comedy, some of the funniest moments in the film are typical of the other genres of comedies. The conversation between Philips and his daughter about when and where to use the word “penis” provides the best comic relief in the film.
You get the feeling Brooks definitely wants to keep his films in the intellectual-comedy category. Yet, he knew he had to sprinkle in a few gags of non-intellectual comedy if his film was to have any commercial success. In the end, Brooks created a film that fails to fit into any comedic category.