Despite their impending divorce, movie stars Gwen and Eddie are persuaded to appear together at a press junket to plug their latest film. While publicist Lee milks the potential, Gwen's put-upon sister Kiki soothes the famous brows and nurses an unrequited love.
The shock split of a silver screen's golden couple is ripe stuff for ribbing. Add their Cinderella assistant's transformation into a beauty and a colourful collection of Tinseltown types, and it's all good, agreeable material for wisecracker Billy Crystal, who wrote, produced and co-stars with his customary, likeable impudence. Even for those unfamiliar with the paparazzi, it's easy to identify with the comic challenge facing Crystal's press agent (a position sometimes disrespectfully, but not entirely inaccurately, referred to as the "tea bag manager"). Caught between a pompous producer (Tucci), a deranged director (Walken) who believes his absurd movie - think The Terminator in Nazi Germany, with execrable Cabaret pastiche - is great art, a couple of narcissistic stars (Zeta-Jones and Cusack), and a mob of smartypants hacks, Lee is like a peacekeeper in the Balkans. Everybody is firing at him, and nobody is going to thank him.
Lee's task is to cajole the warring thespians into making nice for the media. He proves a genius manipulator. Although the petulant leading lady is shacked up with a self-serving Spanish ham (Azaria) and the neurotic leading man is under a restraining order, gibbering in the retreat of a grasping guru (Alan Arkin), the couple are needed at the press beano. This takes place in a remote resort where reporters have been corralled in luxury to obscure the fact they haven't actually been allowed to see the latest stinker to sport Gwen and Eddie's names above its title. As if journalists are that dumb!
The parade of five-minute interviews, monstrous behind-the-scenes misbehaviour and Hollywood studio machinations are time-honoured, perennially pleasing staples. So, too, is the romantic foolery in which Gwen's long-suffering, eternally overlooked and - naturally - bespectacled sister-servant Kiki, having shed over four stones (cue cute flashbacks of prosthetically bloated Roberts in a fat suit), is ready to claim her ex-brother-in-law's heart. This, predictably, rekindles the obnoxious Gwen's interest in him. The glamour trio are all pretty, pitch into the physical comedy like good sports and have fun sending up "difficult", demanding artistes - which they assuredly believe they, themselves, are not.
Roth's direction (his first film in more than a decade, since embarking on his other career as production honcho at Fox and Disney) is competent, by the numbers, but one longs for a snappier pace from him and meatier repartee in Crystal's very genial but, frankly, surprisingly slight script. The polish of the supporting cast (Azaria, Tucci, Walken and Arkin are all a panic but haven't much to do) gives a false impression that there is more to this than meets the eye. And while we're carping: may we just add a request for a moratorium on further appearances by ubiquitous CNN celebrity sycophant, Larry King, as "Himself"? So it's by no means one of the wittier, classic Hollywood satires, but it does nicely for an attractively-wrapped giggle.
A lightweight, amusing farce with undeniable cast appeal and a fair supply of Crystal's throwaway funnies.