Get Bruce!

on September 17, 1999 by Ray Greene
What is going on over there at Miramax? Despite the undeniable art-house coups of "Life is Beautiful" and "Shakespeare in Love," the company that almost single-handedly launched the '90s art-house boom lately seems content to let upstarts like October and Artisan take the big chances, while Miramax busies itself with increasingly dull variations on the highly profitable "Scream" franchise and empty teen exploitation fodder like "She's All That."
   Perhaps most inexplicable (or is that inexcusable?) of any recent project to appear under the Miramax imprimatur is "Get Bruce!," a feature length "documentary" of dubious authenticity dedicated to preserving for all time the behind-the-scenes drama of (we kid you not) the creation of Billy Crystal's Oscar monologues. The Bruce of the title is Bruce Vilanch, a "legendary" Hollywood monologuist who specializes in writing "brilliant" awards show banter. In Hollywood, it's not what you know, it's who you know, and Bruce knows some of the indisputable biggies: Long passages of "Get Bruce!" are dedicated to Bruce's relationship with "Billy", "Robin," "Whoopi" and "Bette," each introduced by their very own title card (presumably Donnie and Marie, who gave Bruce his first big break as a comedy writer, proved unavailable for comment).
   The structure of the film goes something like this: Bruce calls Whoopi a genius. Whoopi calls Bruce a genius. Some TV footage of Whoopi delivering jokes written by Bruce is shown to illustrate that they're both geniuses. Bruce calls Bette a genius. Bette calls Bruce a genius. Some TV footage of Bette is shown to...well, you get the idea.
   "Get Bruce!" would be a laughable example of show-business narcissism if it weren't for the demonstrable falsity of the way the project is put together. Obviously faked reaction shots of Vilanch laughing at Robin Williams or firing questions at Whoopi Goldberg have been spliced into what are already powder-puff celebrity interviews (in the case of the Williams footage, Vilanch's cutaway close-ups actually interrupt and modify his own audible off-camera lines). A supposedly spontaneous telephone bull session between Goldberg and Vilanch has been blatantly staged for the camera, as have the handful of "candid" moments of the "legendary" Bruce going through his "legendary" offbeat t-shirt collection, which is discussed at length and with much feigned merriment by all the other "legends" on hand.
   Though undeniably funny at times, "Get Bruce!" is mostly the comedic equivalent of a Ponzi scheme. On paper, the names involved make it look like a sure thing, but in practice, the whole thing comes up a wasted investment of time and energy, and something of an outright fraud. Starring Bruce Vilanch. Directed and produced by Andrew J. Kuehn. Documentary. A Miramax release. Not yet rated. Running time: 75 min.
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