Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

I’m going to try not to spend to much time on this one. When we first meet Charlie Berns (Bill Macy) in this movie called ‘The Deal’ he’s trying to kill himself. That is until his nephew Lionel (Jason Ritter) stops him as Lionel is visiting from Chicago or somewhere in the Midwest and has brought with him this brilliant script he’s been working on, which has inspired the now failed former Hollywood wonder boy producer to shake off his doldrums, choose life and make a movie!

Charlie now goes through the process of working the Hollywood PR Machine by lying, cheating, screwing people over and backstabbing to force the studios hand into making this art house picture about Benjamin Disraeli. However by the time Charlie is through with doing what he does Benjamin Disraeli has become a gun toting, white woman lusting, black Jewish freedom fighter.

While all of this is going on Charlie has made the acquaintance of the studios pretty development executive Deidre Hearn (Meg Ryan) and Charlie has decided he wants to have sex with her and goes through a lot of trouble to make this happen. A lot of stuff is going on such as the studio being up for sale, dealing with a spoiled Black Jewish Action Star (James Todd Smith) and his Rabbi (Elliot Gould), dealing with a difficult South African shoot and a spoiled Director and eventually everything just goes straight to hell. Fortunately Charlie and Deidra, who have been having sex on a regular basis as Charlie’s plan has succeeded, have a plan to save the movie and save the day.

Let me tell you that I found ‘The Deal’ to be abhorrent. Completely. Now at the outset you’re of the mind that this movie should be pretty damned cool, being that it’s one of those dry, witty, ‘Hollywood Insider’ type flicks, and sure we’ve seen these ‘Hollywood Insider’ type flicks before and sure the majority of them blow, but we were confident with this one since it has a pretty good cast lead by the prolific and talented Bill H. Macy. Here’s the problem with ‘The Deal’. First of all it’s not funny. It wants to be funny and it tries like hell to be funny but alas it never graduates past mildly amusing and it becomes less amusing the longer it goes on, even though you can clearly see it’s doing its damndest to be more amusing.

So we recognize now that this movie is failing as a comedy but since this is also a movie about some people trying to overcome some difficult challenges to achieve an increasingly difficult goal, then hopefully it will work as one of those feel good ‘Rudy’ type movies and leave us with that warm fuzzy feeling that only movies like that can do. Now here’s the problem with that theory. Bill H. Macy’s Charlie Berns is one of the most unlikable characters that you’ll ever have the displeasure of having to watch operate, and while you’re kind of hoping that he will become more likable along the way, that just doesn’t happen. Not even close. Charlie actually attempts to kill himself a second time in this movie, and since we’ve gotten to know Charlie pretty well up to this point, we’re kind of hoping he succeeds this time.

But now we’re thinking the introduction of the Meg Ryan character will offset and balance the overall disgust we feel toward Charlie Berns, but no sir, because the character of Deidre Hearns is largely portrayed as a duplicitous two-timing whore. Okay, maybe she’s not duplicitous. Whatever she sees in Charlie we sure don’t see it so I can’t tell you what the attraction is. Why this woman, who is presented to us as a smart, loyal executive with a loving fiancé at home continues to sex up a selfish suicidal asshole, I can’t tell you. The only characters in this flick who are remotely endearing are the Jason Ritter character and an actress played by Fiona Glascott, but they have like a combined 90 seconds worth of screen time so there you go.

Bill H. Macy co-wrote this mess along with the films director Stephen Schachter and I guess they were giving us a dark inside view of how the movie business really works. Maybe. I don’t know. What I do know, and of course this a subjective opinion, is that ‘The Deal’ isn’t funny and since you don’t give a flying f**k about any of the characters in this movie, and you can give less than a f**k on whether or not they accomplish what they set out to do. I’m down with satire and all but if this was an ‘insiders’ view on how the Movie Machine works, this was much better left locked away on the inside.

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