Friday January 29, 1999
Scrape away the phony tinsel of "Tinseltown" and what you find underneath is unprintable. This penny dreadful is an example of a January doldrums release at its worst.
Arye Gross and Tom Wood play struggling screenwriters so down on their luck that they're about to board a bus out of Hollywood when, at the very last second, someone actually takes a call from them. He proves to be a purported producer (Joe Pantoliano) so unsuccessful as to be homeless but promises that he has "connections" ripe for fresh ideas.
When the writers break into a self-storage place in search of a place to stay--whatever happened to alarm systems?--they get inspiration from its decidedly weird manager (Ron Perlman), a wannabe star who does celebrity impressions and may in fact be the elusive Costume Serial Killer, who dons a red wig, injects his victims with window cleaner and suffocates them.
As it turns out, Pantoliano knows a potential backer (John Considine) so kinky he just might underwrite a project about the serial killer as long as he gets to meet Perlman--and as long as Perlman doesn't get caught before a movie gets made about him. But what if Perlman isn't actually the Costume Killer, and what if the real killer somehow gets wind of the project?
Adapted by Tony Spiridakis and Shem Bitterman from their play "Self Storage" and directed by Spiridakis, "Tinseltown," with its attempts to satirize just how far people will go to get a Hollywood break, ought to have been infinitely funnier than it is. The careful delineation of character, the inspired lunacy, the light touch of, say, the Brothers Farrelly are as absent here as they are badly needed. Pantoliano and Perlman are experienced actors with many resources, but here their roles are way overly theatrical.
But then the cast, which includes Kristy Swanson and David Dukes, is not really the problem, although Gross and Wood are charmless. There's scarcely a laugh in the laborious "Tinseltown," which means there's no pleasure to be derived from its preposterousness. We're barely starting the year, but "Tinseltown" could turn out to be the "8 Heads in a Duffel Bag" of 1999.
Tinseltown, 1999. Unrated. A Samuel Goldwyn Films release. Director Tony Spiridakis. Producers Spiridakis, Randy Lippert. Executive producers Samuel Goldwyn Jr., John Bard Manulis, James L.D. Roser. Screenplay Spiridakis, Shem Bitterman; adapted from their play. Cinematographer Scott Henriksen. Editor Christopher Koefoed. Music Kim Bullard. Costumes Lynn Bernay. Production designer Rusty Smith. Art director and additional design Alexander Hammond. Set decorator Jerry Gardner. Running time: 1 hour, 25 minutes. Arye Gross as Max. Joe Pantoliano as Arnie. Ron Perlman as Cliff. Tom Wood as Tiger.