2003-10-03 / Columnists

MovieScope By Robert Snyder ‘Anything Else’ – Woody Pie

MovieScope By Robert Snyder<br />‘Anything Else’ – Woody Pie

MovieScope By Robert Snyder
'Anything Else' - Woody Pie

Be warned: "Anything Else" is not a gross-out teen comedy in the vein of
the "American Pie" movies. In fact, "Anything Else" is anything but. This
is despite the print ad depicting jubilant "Pie" star Jason Biggs carrying a
huge heart-shaped picture of Christina Ricci on his back.

"Anything Else" is a Woody Allen movie...nothing else. If you look closely, you'll see his name in the ad. But, the real giveaway is the movie's beginning with the patented Allenesque white titles appearing against black, as '20's jazz plays on the soundtrack. For the past three decades, all Woody Allen movies have started this way. At an opening weekend show, an elderly couple saw the titles, smiled and settled in for almost two hours of Woody one-liners and comic soup opera. Meanwhile, a group of teenagers toward the front row went, "Wha?"

At any rate, the deceived adolescents were treated to a taste if what's
become the annual ritual of Allen fall film fare. Unfortunately, "Anything
Else" is one of the great comedic artist's lesser works. Still, even bad Woody Allen is better than most current teen-oriented, in-your-face comedies..."Pie" included (not that any adolescents would agree).

"Anything Else" is hardly bad. It's saved by Allen himself (with help
from old pros like Stockard Channing and Danny DeVito), but hurt by his young stars, who simply aren't funny.

As up-and-coming comedy writer Jerry Falk, Biggs plays the part assigned to Allen in the past. Absorbed in himself, he routinely turns to the camera and provides Allenisms...as the master does in "Annie Hall." In the role of the impossible-to-place girlfriend Amanda, Ricci is affected and shrill. The young stars' scenes alone together are often as strident as an amateur acting class.

Long stretches of Biggs-Ricci blahs are mercifully uplifted by interruptions from Channing as Amanda's cocaine-sniffing mother, Paula.

The writer-director casts himself as the sage: David Dobel, a veteran comedy writer-turned teacher. The best sequences have Dobel walking or driving with Falk through scenic Manhattan locations, as the elder spews out his pearls of Woody wit and wisdom. Revealed are the senior comic's surprising respect for guns and Los Angeles, along with his fear of anti-Semitism, coupled by his contempt for talent agents and psychotherapists.

After a while, even Allen is undermined by Bigg's blandness. The end of the film is saved when DeVito as Falk's agent Harvey has an explosive scene in a restaurant. But it's too little to late.

The ad should have shown aging Allen carrying young Biggs on his back. Of course, it would have been a sure-fire way to keep the teens away.

For more movie info see www.enjoytheshow.com


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