While admittedly much of what Brooks presents here is knowing and crisply conceived, the material turns out to be far soggier in the execution than perhaps it appeared on the page. As a satirist, Brooks is able to get in his jabs, but none of his blows against the empire registers with anything approaching lethal ferocity. In Real Life, Modern Romance, and Lost in America, Brooks established himself as the master of neurotic romanticism as well as the funniest clinical depressive of his period. But his last three films -- Defending Your Life, Mother, and now The Muse -- haven't delivered on the promise of the first three.
Brooks can still get a laugh out of most of us even when the line isn't all that funny; he has that gift. But it's not as if you don't register the faltering quality of the material even while you're laughing. He's right, too, to echo the movie's premise, that nothing drastic is called for -- just the honing of a concept here, an adjustment in the context there. Nothing that might call for an intervention by the gods.