A lavish parody of/homage to Hollywood big business comedies, THE HUDSUCKER PROXY is gorgeous but lifeless, a very small joke writ very large by the talented but perversely insular Coen brothers. Guileless but ambitious hick Norville Barnes (Tim Robbins) comes to the big city to make his fortune, and gets a job in the mailroom of Hudsucker Industries. When CEO Waring Hudsucker (Charles Durning) commits suicide, the Board of Directors--led by ruthless Sidney J. Mussberger (Paul Newman)--decides to make a killing by installing an idiot in his place, then taking advantage of lowered stock price. Barnes is the unwitting idiot, Amy Archer (Jennifer Jason Leigh) the fast-talking, crackerjack columnist who lies her way into his life, hoping to get the big scoop, but falls in love instead. When Barnes' tenure proves a surprise success, Mussberger will stop at nothing to get rid of him. Beautifully designed and costumed, THE HUDSUCKER PROXY is a curiously arid movie, clever without being witty. One could blame the performances, which are almost all too broad, but the real trouble lies elsewhere: the Coens are often accused of heartlessness, and HUDSUCKER is the proof. It is, however, an impressive technical achievement--the period New York sets are to die for--and its version of the invention of the hula-hoop is a comic highlight.