Contrary to what you may have heard, this monumentally ill-conceived vehicle for pop diva Mariah Carey's screen debut is not the worst lonely-at-the-top, inside-showbiz soap opera in film history. And therein lies the problem; instead of a camp trash wallow, à la VALLEY OF THE DOLLS or the Barbra Streisand version of A STAR IS BORN, it's a butt-numbing exercise in tedium, sporadically redeemed by moments of unintentional hilarity. The film's release in the wake of Carey's highly public personal travails can best be described as an act of willful cruelty: Somebody at 20th Century Fox must have had it in for the scantily clad chanteuse. Big-voiced kid Billie Frank (Carey) is abandoned by her seriously dysfunctional, jazz-singing mom and sent to a foster home, accompanied by a cute kitten that mysteriously disappears until a crucial second-act plot point that simply must be seen to be believed. A decade or so later, at an early '80s disco from hell, Billie is discovered by charismatic, aspiring-producer DJ Dice (Max Beesley). The duo eventually make it to the top of the music-business heap, despite the inevitable romantic misfortunes, industry back-stabbing and the threat of gratuitous violence (which, when it finally arrives, is way too little, way too late, dramatically speaking). Again contrary to rumor, Carey can act after a fashion, though dialogue gives her trouble. But her performance alternates between two basic modes — a sort of porn-star, come-hither sexiness and a little-girl-on-the-verge-of-tears sulk — that get very old, very fast. On the plus side, while the script has its share of vintage clichés ("Don't blame me for your failure!"), it also invents some new ones, notably the scene in which Dice seduces Billie by playing the marimba. Aspiring screenwriters take note: The marimba gets 'em every time. For what it's worth, the rest of the music on the soundtrack isn't terrible (though the number that rockets Billie to stardom, a tepid cover of Robert Palmer's "Didn't Mean to Turn You On" hardly seems the stuff of which careers are made), and most of the cast is game, especially R&B star Da Brat, who's sweetly sassy as one of Billie's back-up singers. God only knows why former underground comic Anne Magnuson bothered taking the role of Billie's publicist; back in the real early '80s, she did ruthless parodies of precisely this kind of music business cheese... or maybe that's what she's still doing.