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Friday, September 24, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
By Moira Macdonald
Jeff Nathanson's Hollywood comedy "The Last Shot" is one of those movies that you want to like much more than you actually do it's trying so hard to be bouncy, you want to give it credit for effervescence that isn't really there.
Based loosely on a true incident, it's the story of a failed Hollywood screenwriter named Steven Schats (Matthew Broderick) who happily agrees to direct his long-toiled-upon screenplay, not knowing that his producer, Joe Devine (Alec Baldwin), is actually an FBI agent conducting a covert operation to nab mobsters.
It's a promising setup, and the screenplay is rich in funny lines, particularly in its depiction of Schats' magnum opus, a film that sounds so giddily awful you almost want to watch it. (It's about a young woman with cancer searching for a spirit cave, and its tagline is "Dying Inspired Her to Live.") But Nathanson the director (he's a first-timer, having previously written "Catch Me If You Can," "Rush Hour" and others) has some catching up to do with Nathanson the writer. He doesn't seem to know how to keep the energy going, and the movie keeps flattening out, making its 93 minutes seem much longer than it needs to be.
Plenty of good actors flit through the film, including an uncredited Joan Cusack, who sinks her teeth (and her chewy voice) into the small role of a blissed-out wacko producer. And Broderick brings his usual chipmunky charm to the role of a man who can't believe his luck Schats fondles his megaphone, intoning director-y phrases ("Action!" "Cut!") like he's been waiting all his life to say them.
It's all very loose and, while occasionally diverting, doesn't really add up to anything. "Play it again, Sam," says Broderick at the end to a projectionist. "The Last Shot," with its in-jokes and cinematic references, reaches out to those who love movies but ultimately leaves us empty-handed.
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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