Canadian director Atom Egoyan can usually be counted on for making movies that, at the very least, are provocative and absorbing ("Ararat," "The Adjuster") and at their very best approach the sublime ("The Sweet Hereafter"). But he delivers a rare misfire with "Where the Truth Lies," a shockingly fatuous murder mystery with pseudo-intellectual pretensions.

Based on a book by Rupert Holmes, "Where the Truth Lies" stars Colin Firth and Kevin Bacon as a 1950s song-and-dance team that breaks up soon after the covered-up death of a pretty hotel maid; 15 years later, they're approached by a pretty journalist (Alison Lohman) who wants to write a book about the episode. Any resemblance to Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis is purely intentional -- right down to an annual telethon for a medical charity -- but why they deserve to be libeled the way they are here is unclear. Firth, as always, is the apotheosis of control and rectitude and Bacon does a good job of channeling the goofball with a dark side, but Lohman is oddly affectless as the writer with about a dozen hidden agendas.

What's more, Egoyan's erotic preoccupation -- nearly always present in his films -- is nothing more than a titillating sideshow, and the film's self-important subtext, about the nexus of exploitation where celebrity and journalism meet, makes the same old points with no new insights. This is a silly, ponderous piece of work, and you won't believe one word of it.

-- Ann Hornaday