It's certainly not the case that For Your Consideration is an unfunny movie. Look, there's the poster over there on the left, and longtime readers know that can only mean one thing: "this is worth spending money on."

But it's next to impossible to deny that it's much the weakest of the films by the Christopher Guest Stock Company, the brilliant improvisateurs behind three of the funniest comedies of the last twenty years: Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show and A Mighty Wind.

There are at least a couple of obvious reasons why that's the case, but chief among them is Guest & co-writer Eugene Levy's choice of target: the film industry. As we all know, nothing in human history has ever been farther up its own ass than Hollywood, and it's entirely possible that no subject has been satirized in the movies so often as the movies. Guest himself has visited the subject once before, in 1989's The Big Picture, and while For Your Consideration is a significant step up from that drowsy effort, it's still undeniably stale.

The other primary reason that the film doesn't bring the big laughs is that Guest & Co. have never been particularly vicious with their satirical knives, but in this film they are positively gentle. The story (for there is a story; this is no mockumentary, although I tend to doubt that has anything to do with the finished quality) follows two has-been actors (Catherine O'Hare and Harry Shearer) and an indie ingenue (Parker Posey) on the set of a sanitized drama titled Home for Purim, and dealing with an unexpected jolt of Oscar buzz from an anonymous blogger. In a more perfect world, this would be the set-up for positively bloodthirsty mockery: the shallow dreams of terrible performers and the low-brow aims of hack filmmakers practically satirise themselves. But the filmmakers here seem almost...sorry for their subjects, and while I won't call it a case of refusing to bite the hand that feeds them, it's still a pretty gutless treatment of one of the very few segments of humanity that everybody already hates.

I try not to play the "what the movie should have been" game, but this is a case of a film with a shocking number of wasted ideas. The creation of a mock-intellectual Oscar worthy film a la the Marc Fosters and Bill Condons of the world? Fantastic idea, but why then present us with the bizarre Home for Purim and the completely unbelievable collection of random directorial stereotypes, Jay Berman (played by Guest)? What the hell causes someone to cast Ricky Gervais (as a studio exec not terribly far removed from David Brent) and use him in only two short scenes? What's present is certainly amusing, but it's always just around the corner from flat-out hilarious, and the film never quite gets that extra push. The humor is often more of the "hey, that was funny" variety than something you actually laugh at, if you follow me.

Enough of this dismal post-mortem for a film that doesn't deserve it. It's still a Christopher Guest film, and still comprised of his extraordinarily talented stable of actors, and that counts for a great deal. The standout is perhaps Catherine O'Hare, given the biggest and meatiest role, and she plays her character as a pathetic loser who is an object of both sympathy and derision simultaneously, no mean feat. It is one of the delightful ironies of the world that her performance is generating some Oscar buzz itself, and I long to see a For Your Consideration "For Your Consideration" ad. Imagine the cascading meta!

As is usual for these films, the best performances tend to be the small ones: the aforementioned Gervais is typically wonderful, and Jennifer Coolidge stands out more than usual as the airheaded producer. I don't know entirely what to make of Ed Begley, Jr's turn as a gay New Age makeup artist, other than to say that it is hysterical. Fred Willard and Jane Lynch are perhaps the highlight of the film, starring in a horrifyingly perfect parody of the Access Hollywood/E! Network gossip "news" shows that are probably more responsible than anything else for ruining Americans' ability to watch films (a close second in the "horrifyingly perfect" race: Don Lake and Michael Hitchcock as utterly idiotic Ebert & Roeper clones).

I was entertained more often than not, even if nothing came within swiping distance of Willard's free-form rants in Best in Show or Guest's immortal line "you people are bastard people!" from Guffman. But I can imagine, ten years hence, people sniffing that nothing in this or that comedy compares to O'Hara's hideous post-surgery grin or Coolidge's suggestion that the marketing take a "cannibal movie" angle. Because it is funny, it's just not "funny ha-ha," you know?