The premise of The Big Picture is simple and was somewhat famous at the time, back in the days of "high concept," though the film's sleek idea sort of got lost in the resulting picture. An aspiring filmmaker named Nick Chapman (Kevin Bacon), who has just made a music video for a neophyte group, doesn't answer his phone for a day and suddenly his inaccessibility makes him hot, with lunching execs claiming they have seen his earlier films, of which there are none. The interest in him builds, and his fey, blow-dried agent (Martin Short) goes nuts trying to find him. At the end of the day, the formerly hubristic and now humbled Chapman is in a position to make the film he has always dreamed of.
One of the problems with The Big Picture is that film that Chapman wants to make. His dream project appears to be a dull tale with awful dialogue about a love triangle set in a country house in the snow. The self-satisfied gleam with which Chapman watches his film come to life at the end is rivaled only by the narcissism of John Turturro in his dreadful Illuminata. Billy Wilder would never have made the mistake of making the subject of the satire a poorly honed replica of the original.
Director Christopher Guest is better known for his amusing if rather cold-hearted mockumentaries. The Big Picture, released in 1989, is satire of a rather tepid nature in comparison to the later films. It's a soft-hearted movie that wants you to like its privileged central character and be amused, but not wary, of its Hollywood denizens, from the high powered studio executive played brilliantly by the late J. T. Walsh, to the insipid and vain actress (Teri Hatcher) Nick throws over his cute blonde girlfriend for.
Still, taken on its own terms, The Big Picture is charming film and not without insight into some of the complexities of negotiating the reefs and shores of the movie biz. One wishes that maybe it had the harder edge of, say, Swimming with Sharks, but it has a great cast that is used well.
VIDEO: Filling in a gap in director Guest's DVD filmography, Columbia gives The Big Picture surprisingly lavish presentation. It's a re-mastered widescreen transfer (1.85:1) enhanced for widescreen TVs, with a full-screen version also available on the disc.
SOUND: The audio track for this talky film, with its annoying twangy, rinky-tinky music track, comes in Dolby 2.0 Surround, with English and French subtitles.
MENUS: The animated, musical menu offers 28 chapter scene selection for the 100 minute movie.
EXTRAS: The Big Picture comes with an unexpected number of the extra. Most important is an audio commentary track from both Bacon and Guest. In the new oral history of Saturday Night Live, Guest is cited as a chilly fellow unable to inspire small talk. He does better here. Still, it's not a fruitful track, and reminds the auditor of the terrible track on Criterion's Sullivan's Travels disc Guest contributed to. The extras also include three deleted scenes, the usual skimpy filmographies, and trailers for The Big Picture and three other recent Columbia Tristar comedies.