Anything Else

Woody Allen goes in search of a younger demographic

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STARRING Jason Biggs, Christina Ricci, Woody Allen, Danny DeVito, Stockard Channing

Opens July 30, Cert 15, 108 mins

It’s a great idea: remake Annie Hall for the American Pie generation and give Woody’s miserabilism adolescent lustre. The poster features Christina Ricci’s face in a love heart, while Allen’s 28th auteur vehicle co-stars the doyen of teenshag cinema. An attempt to appeal to mallrats? Maybe. The trailer, with Jason Biggs as the insecure paranoiac thwarted by frigid nympho Ricci, was, like, totally Friends directed by Bergman.

It’s less scintillating over two hours. Biggs and Ricci play Vodafone-wielding versions of Woody and Diane Keaton’s best-loved characters, all stammering anxiety (Biggs) and sexual dysfunction (Ricci). Biggs is a surrogate Woody, a novelist called Jerry Falk unable to sever links with anyone from his shrink to his agent (Danny DeVito, who appears to have wandered in from Broadway Danny Rose). Falk’s only successful relationship is with Dobel (Allen), a comedy writer with a survivalist bent who offers Falk advice about Nazis and handguns.

Biggs looks baffled, while Ricci winces through unlikely references to Madame Bovary and “feeling nauseous”. It’s like a beautifully filmed but badly acted juvenile off-Broadway version of Annie Hall, a mismatch between these jejune ciphers and their jarringly adroit dialogue.

Allen invests Biggs and Ricci with traits unthinkable in 21st-century twentysomethings: they love Eugene O’Neill, share a penchant for bleak philosophising and check into hotels as “S and Z Fitzgerald”. Yeah, right.

Oddly, Allen, revitalised by Hollywood Ending (2002), half of which comprised his most flat-out funny work for years, provides the most energetic performance, as well as the best lines. Maybe next time he should redo Bananas with a bunch of octogenarians.


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