Anything Else
2 out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir-scr Woody Allen
with Jason Biggs, Christina Ricci, Woody Allen, Stockard Channing, Danny DeVito, Fisher Stevens, Kadee Strickland, Jimmy Fallon, Adrian Grenier, Joseph Lyle Taylor, Erica Leerhsen, Diana Krall
release US 19.Sep.03; UK 30.Jul.04
03/US 1h48

Whisper words of wisdom: Allen and Biggs.

biggs ricci allen
channing devito
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Woody Allen continues to wobble in his career with a string of films that are either forgettable or insubstantial. Of course there are moments of genius in this merely mediocre romantic comedy, but despite some clever scripting the film reminds us far too much of his two New York rom-com masterworks (Annie Hall and Manhattan) for its own good.

His alter ego here is Jerry Falk (Biggs), a struggling young comedy writer. And we soon understand why he's struggling: He's far too loyal to his hopelessly inept agent (DeVito). His mentor is a bitter old writer (Allen) who constantly gives him advice about his professional and personal life. And his personal life takes a turn for the worse when he falls in love with an unstable nutcase (Ricci) whose even more batty mother (Channing) moves in with them.

Peppered with extremely well-written observational humour, the script is quite entertaining as it plays with the idea of writing and artistic creation. But the plot itself is mildly annoying and seriously dull, with only a few sparks of actual humour. Biggs is good but bland in the central role; we identify with him, but he seems far too hapless to ever make anything of himself. Ricci plays the comic femme fatale nicely, but the character is deeply unsympathetic, and you never want her to end up with Jerry. (She's so infuriatingly obnoxious that she'd put any man off women for life!) Meanwhile, Allen is very funny as the seasoned cynic trying to find a grain of hope somewhere; he's droll and sharp and not remotely annoying (probably because he doesn't have a young woman throwing herself at him). But as a director, he does nothing notable here besides allowing Darius Khondji to photograph Manhattan beautifully. The snappy dialog and fluffy jazz score only remind us of what Allen's capable of as a filmmaker. Sadly, this one just doesn't have enough humour or insight to make it remotely memorable. It's like anything else, really.

cert 15 themes, language, innuendo 22.Dec.03

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2003 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall