Call it "Ed Wood: The Next Generation"; Bobby Bowfinger (Steve Martin, who also scripted) is nothing if not a modern day Wood, the perpetually broke director of ingeniously threadbare pictures. Unfortunately, Bowfinger seems less a quixotic dissenter against mainstream corporate conformity than a slightly creepy hustler who'd sell his soul in a Hollywood minute, if only someone would make an offer. Bowfinger sees his accountant's (Adam Alexi-Malle) alien invasion script, "Chubby Rain," as his ticket to the big time. The catch: It needs a star like action idol Kit Ramsey (Eddie Murphy), and Kit, a paranoid egomaniac in thrall to a cult called Mindhead, won't give Bowfinger the time of day. So Bowfinger decides to make the movie without Kit's knowledge, assembling a supporting cast and arranging for them to accost the actor — who's already suffering delusions about aliens — on the street. Kit's evident alarm and confusion? Oh, that's just acting. Bowfinger's gang of fringe players includes Norma Desmond-esque thespian Carol (Christine Baranski), would-be filmmaker Dave (Jamie Kennedy, SCREAM's movie geek) and ingenue Daisy (Heather Graham), who sleeps her way to success in record time, starting with her dopey co-star (Kohl Suddoth) and proceeding to "the most powerful lesbian in Hollywood." No, that wouldn't be an Anne Heche joke (she was once Martin's girlfriend), anymore than Mindhead's resemblance to Scientology is anything but sheer coincidence. Murphy, who also plays Kit's nerdy brother Jiff, gets off a couple of bitterly funny rants, and Terence Stamp and Robert Downey Jr. (in the supporting roles of Mindhead's guru and a reptilian agent) have moments of pure brilliance. Oddly, given Martin's talent and the corrosive absurdity of movie business mores, the film feels strangely obvious; it's soft without being especially affectionate and only sporadically funny, but its best moments are memorable.