Movies that live and die by the inside joke usually just die by the inside joke, and "L.A. Twister" is as inside-industry as they come.
Written by Geoffrey Saville-Read and directed by newcomer Sven Pape, this is a movie within a movie about making a movie, out to humorously dramatize the fictional struggle of two Boston buddies trying to succeed in Hollywood.
First there's pathetic Lenny (Zack Ward, the now-all-grown-up bully from "A Christmas Story"), who sells his soul via an unfunny casting-couch episode that should give you an idea of the sitcom-level events ahead. Then there's pal Ethan (Tony Daly), who's almost cute enough for us to forgive that he mostly just mopes around, unable to move past the cruel fact that his wife recently left him for another guy.
Since no one will give the pals a break, they decide to make a movie themselves, relying on determination and a flimsy financial promise from a shady friend. The crazy-cool thing is that, heh heh, some of the movie you've been watching is already that other movie -- the one they're making about themselves -- which is of course not real either but . . . you get the picture. (Or maybe you don't, but it hardly matters to people in Los Angeles.)
This isn't the sort of rare addition to witty film-industry commentaries that merits comparisons to "The Player" or "Adaptation." As satire it's overreaching romantic comedy, and as romantic comedy it's spotty at best. At the end of the shooting day, Pape and Saville-Read are so busy winking and chuckling over their own clever lampooning of Hollywood conventions that they forget to make the rest of us care.
When it's not bashing Ben Affleck or mocking commercial product placements, "L.A. Twister" serves up a silly story and clunky dialogue that gets better than it deserves from Jennifer Aspen as Lenny's would-be girlfriend. It also features a toe-stuck-in-the-bathtub-faucet cameo by washed-up Susan Blakely.
Actually, as inside jokes go, that last one's not half bad.
Janice Page can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.