- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 5, 2005

“Jiminy Glick in Lalawood,” a screwball classic that derives enormous, knowing pleasure from mocking the film business, is a rollicking and delightful send-off for the summer movie season.

One of the happiest fixtures of show business for the past generation, Martin Short may have a Hollywood curse hanging over his reputation: He has never been the indisputable star of a blockbuster comedy. It would be difficult to deny him full credit for a “Jiminy Glick” triumph.

A late-blooming brainstorm in the Short gallery of characters, Jiminy is a prodigiously obese, self-absorbed and unnerving caricature of shameless celebrity interviewers. He was a fitful panic on a half-hour Comedy Central series called “Prime Time Glick.” He becomes a more plausible and versatile prime-timer in “Lalawood,” a blithe misnomer that ignores the fact that we’re being invited to backtrack in the legend of Jiminy Glick and meet him at the dawn of renown, during a whirlwind excursion to the Toronto Film Festival.

Representing a TV station in Butte, Mont., Jiminy is accompanied by a semiharrowing spouse, Jan Hooks as glowering, brassy Dixie Glick. Not to mention their identical-twin offspring, tubbies named Matthew and Modine, which may or may not date Jiminy’s infatuation with the business.

Initially desperate for access, Jiminy scores a coup by falling asleep during the screening of a vanity production from a notoriously temperamental young star, Ben diCarlo (Corey Pearson). Ignorance permits Jiminy to transmit a rave back home. It’s the only favorable notice, earning him a coveted exclusive with edgy Ben. Jiminy is swiftly promoted to the red carpet, where he gets to flirt with Sharon Stone and Susan Sarandon and leaves Kiefer Sutherland speechless.

A soaring rep attracts other fictional personalities as needy and oblivious as Ben, notably Elizabeth Perkins as has-been Miranda Coolidge, whose entourage includes John Michael Higgins as a bullying and malapropic Frenchman.

Between interview gigs — there’s a wonderfully sustained encounter with Steve Martin, by now very adept at playing stooge to the alternately gushing and crushing Jiminy — the hero seems to be part of a second dream world, a murder mystery being conjured up in the imagination of David Lynch, an astonishing Martin Short masquerade of a different tenor.

The Lynch digressions and reveries take pressure off Jiminy’s needling and sometimes lewd farcical onslaughts. It’s a pleasant surprise to see that the zany in the fat suit is more comfortably tailored to a 90-minute ensemble comedy than a short-winded half-hour segment that depends solely on his supreme oddness.

Jiminy is calculated to throw outrageous doubt on contemporary celebrity. If this madcap freak can attract a following, what does it mean to be one of the gorgeous and privileged?

A peer of the performers who submit to Jiminy grillings and humblings, Mr. Short has the number of all the big names at his mercy, but he’s ultimately a protective deflater. He gets as bored with show folk as the next sneaky-sarcastic fan, but he also couldn’t live without them.

***1/2

TITLE: “Jiminy Glick in Lalawood”

RATING: R (Frequent slapstick vulgarity and allusions to sex; fleeting profanity; ominous thematic elements and fleeting graphic violence)

CREDITS: Directed by Vadim Jean. Screenplay by Martin Short, Paul Flaherty and Michael Short. Cinematography by Mike Fox. Production design by Tony Devenyi. Costume design by Lorraine Carson. Makeup design by Kevin Haney and Kristina Vogel. Editing by Matt Davis. Music by David Nessim Lawrence.

RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes

WEB SITE: www.goldcirclefilms.com

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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