- The Washington Times - Friday, October 17, 2008

There comes a moment in “What Just Happened?” when you realize that what you’re seeing is not really a comedy but a tragedy, a tale of a man beaten down by life more than he (probably) deserves. But until you get there, the movie’s a fun ride.

Bruce Willis, playing himself) to shave his beard before filming can begin.

He has to do these things not out of love of the project or for artistic reasons, but because the studio heads demand it of him. He’s trapped between competing powers far beyond his own meager capabilities.

For a “power broker,” Ben’s not packing a lot of heat.

To top things off, Ben’s personal life is a mess; he bounces around the city visiting wives he used to love in houses he used to own. His relationship with his children is distant, at best. Ben can’t even pick up a stranger at a bar without it turning into a job interview.

Don’t get me wrong; “What Just Happened?” can be blisteringly funny at times. Ben’s interactions with Mr. Willis and his recalcitrant director are hilarious, as are his tussles with Mr. Willis’ spineless agent, Catherine Keener).

But the movie bogs down when the camera turns to Ben’s family and personal life. There’s an odd subplot about an agent who committed suicide; we’re led to believe that Ben’s daughter, Zoe (Kristen Stewart), had some sort of relationship with the agent, but the story never goes anywhere. Ben’s relationships (or lack thereof) with his ex-wives also get no more than a cursory examination, and what little time is spent with them seriously detracts from the film’s narrative drive.

“What Just Happened?” is worth seeing, especially for people interested in the inner workings of the Hollywood machine. But don’t go in expecting a laugh a minute, as the movie’s advertisements have promised; it’s too true-to-life for that.

RATING: **1/2

TITLE: “What Just Happened?”

RATING: R (Language, some violent images, sexual content and some drug material)

CREDITS: Directed by Barry Levinson

RUNNING TIME: 107 minutes

WEB SITE: http://www.what justhappenedfilm.com

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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