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A CUP OF JOE

In Barry Levinson's Jimmy Hollywood, an unemployed actor finally gets his shot at five minutes of TV fame by casting himself as a real-life anticrime vigilante. Sound familiar? Hero at Large, a lukewarm 1980 comedy with John Ritter, played the same hand.

The feisty protagonist this time around is Joe Pesci, currently the movies' favorite guy-next-door. As the downtrodden Jimmy Alto, who reinvents himself as "Jericho," self-proclaimed guardian of the L.A. streets, Pesci has fun with all the usual shtick--theatrical ego and the public taste for media sensation, the smoking junkers out-of-work "artists" drive and the crummy waiter jobs they take while hope remains in bloom. In the finale, Pesci even gets to do Jimmy Alto's John Garfield blaze-of-glory number.

Victoria Abril has a nice turn as the hero's beleaguered girlfriend (he's spent her last $200 to plaster his face and phone number on a bus bench), and Christian Slater stumbles through the proceedings as Jericho's brain-damaged, crime-fighting accomplice.

Pesci, gotten up in a shoulder-length blond wig, is entertaining, but this second-gear trifle by the director of Rain Man, Diner and Avalon trades on an ironic conceit. It tells us that all those idealistic strivers scratching out a living on Hollywood Boulevard are really the heart and soul of the entertainment game.

But how many of them got auditioned for the Joe Pesci part here? Exactly.


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