The Big Picture (1989) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

In his career behind the camera, Christopher Guest is most closely associated with mockumentaries. He wrote and directed "Best in Show", and he co-wrote the best of them all, "This is Spinal Tap".

You won't see that kind of presentation here, although it might have worked well. This is a mostly conventional movie about an idealistic young filmmaker who is seduced and abandoned by Hollywood. The storyline could be straight out of a Disney film, heavy as it is with self-redemption and eventually learning the value of true love. I really like Guest's writing and performing a lot, but I struggled to stay involved with this film, which was his maiden directorial effort.


Two girls are naked in the swimming pool at a party. There are far from the camera.

Teri Hatcher appears in skimpy lingerie.

There were two positive elements in the film that allowed Guest to abandon a dreary story line let his imagination run free. There was the  "Dream On" technique, in which the young director occasionally pictured himself inside a genre movie appropriate to his current situation - a cowboy film or a 40's noir, for example.  In addition, I liked the opening section, which was essentially the presentation of his student film and the other three films he was competing against. The first student film that we see features big Hollywood stars, despite amateurish writing and filming. Just when we're completely baffled by the whole dichotomy, the awards banquet introduces the filmmaker and the filmmaker's father - a studio honcho.

Unfortunately, whenever the film came back to the basic story, the plot was just the same old rags-to-riches-to-rags-to-different-riches formula, and the satire was predictable and mundane. On the plus side, the performing was quite good, especially Jennifer Jason Leigh, who brought a tiny, almost irrelevant, part to multi-dimensional life.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • widescreen or full screen

  • deleted scenes

  • audio commentary with director Guest and the film's star, Kevin Bacon.

The story:

Nick Chapman is a young film school grad who catches the eye of a big studio honcho. Sucked into the Hollywood vortex, he finds himself being forced to make films he has no interest in, then he abandons his old friends for his new Hollywood cronies. He dumps the cinematographer of his student film for a chance to work with a surly award-winner from Eastern Europe. Sadly, that also ends a long friendship. Then he dumps his sweet girlfriend so that he can make the Hollywood scene with the hottest bimbos.

Unfortunately, the studio fires the man who had been his angel, and he finds himself persona non grata in Hollywood. All of his phony Hollywood friends desert him, and he has to re-examine his life, learning in the process to himself and to be true to his own vision.

Yadda, yadda ... happy ending.

The Critics Vote


The People Vote ...

  • with their dollars: made for $5 million dollars, it proved to be completely non-commercial, grossing $115,000.


IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, C. Can be entertaining, but is not consistent, and is not sure whether it wants to be a biting insider satire or a heart-warming personal growth story. So it ended up a biting, heart-warming kind of thing.

Return to the Movie House home page