For a pop singer who makes every note sound like a multiple orgasm pumped through a Moog synthesizer, Mariah Carey is weirdly blank and recessive in Glitter, her acting debut. Her face, which looks as if it's been composed entirely of oversize cheekbones, has no lines, no crinkles, and no expressions, either. It has, instead, two modes: smiling Mariah (a happy flash of toothpaste-commercial pearly whites) and neutral Mariah (hootchie girl caught in headlights). She's present, but with no more presence than a mannequin.
That said, it's doubtful that even a real actress could have triumphed over the rusty tinsel of ''Glitter,'' a hapless, retro-'80s ''Star Is Born'' that casts her as Billie, a New York backup singer who becomes a star through the efforts of Dice (Max Beesley), a down-with-the-homeboys club DJ who installs himself as her producer, promoter, boyfriend, and abusive, over-controlling noodge. Beesley, who looks like a long-lost Wahlberg brother, has the on-screen potency that Carey lacks, but Dice has been conceived as such a mindless small- timer that the bigger Billie gets, the less sense his character -- or their relationship -- makes.
Directed, sad to say, by the promising Vondie Curtis Hall (''Gridlock'd''), ''Glitter'' barely even allows Carey to do much singing. She looks truly comfortable only when Billie is cradling the one character in the movie more passive than she is -- her cat.