Terry Zwigoff is a bitterly droll misanthropist, and Art School Confidential – his latest pairing with Ghost World collaborator (and famed graphic novelist) Daniel Clowes – finds the director once again taking acidic aim at the socially petty and pompous. Unfortunately, poking fun at the self-important inhabitants of the academic art world is about as challenging as punching a corpse, and unlike Zwigoff’s previous triumphs, there’s just not enough nasty humor (or underlying sympathy for its amusingly rendered misfit protagonists) to make up for the script’s thematic thinness. Bland art school freshman Jerome (Max Minghella) arrives at his East Coast institution of higher learning to find pretentious students, pathetic teachers (including John Malkovich’s sublime triangle-drawing instructor), and a competitive culture more likely to breed fatuous celebrities than true visionaries. Trapped in this ugly environment, Max, equally infatuated with becoming an important painter and scoring with nude model Audrey (Sophia Myles), turns to plagiarism and, eventually, finds fame via notoriety. Alas, this ineffectively satiric twist – meant to highlight how art and commerce are corrosive bedmates – is both too schematically contrived and not nearly as prickly as it should be, an assessment that pertains to every aspect of the dead-weight serial killer subplot. Neither as amiably deranged as Ghost World nor as unseemly as Bad Santa, Zwigoff’s brightly colored film boasts his trademark brand of quirky, antagonistic cynicism and yet, in the end, fails to find a suitably funny or illuminating target at which to direct such mordant negativity.