Based on the mildly entertaining memoir by film producer Art Linson, What Just Happened? is ostensibly an insider's satire of Hollywood moviemakers. Unfortunately, it barely musters the cleverness to accidentally satirize itself. Robert De Niro—who is either the most bored man on earth or a brilliant mimic of the new American unexceptionalism—stars as Ben, the Linson stand-in. An arty movie he's producing, featuring Sean Penn and a brutal dog slaying, isn't testing well—and so he has to convince the film's flighty-but-principled director (Michael Wincott, in a role that should've been Steve Coogan's) to re-edit the film before it gets pulled from Cannes. If any part of that last sentence interested you, you are either the world's biggest Sean Penn fan or a Hollywood producer.

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There are easy, unfunny jokes about psychiatry (instead of a marriage counselor, those topsy-turvy elitist liberals have a DIVORCE counselor!) and status (will Ben get good placement in the upcoming Vanity Fair photo spread of powerful producers?). There are performances by Penn and Bruce Willis that are supposed to be self-knowing but wind up feeling like bad improv exercises. There is more De Niro and John Turturro nudity than anyone ever asked for. Only poor Stanley Tucci really puts in a performance of the appropriate level of humor and self-awareness.

The worst sin of the movie is that, purgatory-like, it just doesn't end; there is no closure, and nothing gets any better or worse. If you have no taste for Hollywood movies about Hollywood movies, you should stay as far away from this movie as you possibly can. If you like good Hollywood insider movies like The Player and Levinson's own Wag the Dog, you should stay as far away from this movie as you possibly can. recommended