At its best, it's "The Idolmaker" with a hard drive, but most of the time, writer/ director Andrew Niccol's comic fantasy comes off as a static and trivial revisitation of his far superior "The Truman Show." Fast-fading film director Viktor Taransky (Al Pacino) gets a new lease on studio-lot life when a mad computer genius entrusts him with a new technology that creates digital actors from whole cloth. Taransky's virtual leading lady, "Simone" (the uncredited Rachel Roberts) never achieves sentience, but her instant popularity -- fed by the cover story that she's a mysterious recluse -- balloons until her creator comes to regard her as an enemy anyway.
Simone can't even speak without Taransky mouthing her lines into a microphone, ensuring plenty of workstation-bound scenes that sap the movie of its comedic bounce. The dialogue is occasionally clever, and supporting players Catherine Keener, Jay Mohr and Pruitt Taylor Vince provide moments of fun, but Simone is still too slow, too long and has too little to say. (You know you're in trouble when Winona Ryder is submitted as en exemplar of wonderful, organic acting.) And amid all the jokes about ego-driven stars, will anyone notice what a grand old time Pacino has in a role that mostly requires him to talk to himself?