Edtv [1999]

The third entry of 1998-99's cinematic TV trilogy kind of got lost in the shuffle following The Truman Show, an art film masquerading as a blockbuster, and Pleasantville, a heartfelt feel-good movie masquerading as a special-effects extravaganza. EDtv is nothing more than it appears: a scruffy comedy about fame and its discontents. Matthew McConaughey stars as Ed, a white-trash rube who gets his own dawn-to-midnight TV series in which every aspect of his life, no matter how sordid or dull or embarrassing, becomes mass entertainment (it inverts Truman by having the protagonist invite the pervasive cameras). Predictably, fame makes him miserable and, unsurprisingly, he finds a way out of his predicament. Albert Brooks covered this same territory in the funnier Real Life, and it's probably not the best idea for a load of comfy celebs to preach to us about how difficult fame is. But the film is cannily cast, including a number of performers who themselves have fallen victim to stupid media tricks (McConaughey, Ellen DeGeneres as the network executive, Elizabeth Hurley as a vamp hitching her star to Ed's, and Woody Harrelson as Ed's even dumber brother). Structurally, the movie is a mess. It looks as if the filmmakers had the choice between making a fully realized, two-and-a-half-hour-long movie that no one would sit through or one that clocks in under two hours but has a lot of plot holes; they opted for the latter (Hurley's character disappears, practically without comment). Still, there are enough laughs to keep things moving, and as a shaggy dog tale it's decent fun. --David Kronke

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