Anything Else Woody Allen

Anything Else Woody Allen
I'll let you in on a little secret on the new romantic comedy, Anything Else, starring Jason Biggs and Christina Ricci — it's a Woody Allen movie. It's something the studio clearly doesn't want you to know, given the complete absence of Allen's name in any promotional material. But before you recoil in horror at the thought of sexagenarian Allen in a love triangle with the pair, let me assure you that's not what this is. Not that Allen is shy about salaciously filming the sultry Ricci in little more than her underwear.

Instead, Allen is trying to recapture the sparkling witty wordplay that marked '70s classics like Annie Hall and Manhattan. Jason Biggs is Jerry Falk, a struggling young comedy writer (who mysteriously lives in a fairly posh pad, by New York standards) who's struggling with relationship issues. He putters through his on-again, off-again relationship with Amanda (Christina Ricci), whose own issues are piling up quickly. (Does any of this sound familiar yet? See Woody Allen oeuvre: 1975 to 1986, roughly Love and Death through Hannah and Her Sisters.)

Allen himself plays David Dobel, a public school teacher who drives a Porsche (of course) and is himself breaking into the comedy writing business. He counsels young Falk in the ways of love, philosophy and writing, but mostly he blathers on self-importantly. Having (thankfully) abandoned the increasingly implausible romantic leading man roles, Allen tries to create a new generation in his image.

The problem is, no one, not even the New York intellectual types, talks like Allen did 30 years ago, and the overly flowery banter that Ricci and Biggs valiantly try to pull off seems worse than anachronistic. Where Diane Keaton held her own, and regularly bested Allen's nebbishes — and those roles now seem like love letters to Keaton and later Mia Farrow — Ricci is left with scanty costumes, and a shrill, demanding and unreasonable girlfriend role. Where Keaton wielded wit, charm and self-reliance, Ricci is left only with sex appeal and whining. Allen clearly needs either to take up a new path (and stop acting), or just set films like this in 1975 and film them like the period pieces they are. (Dreamworks/Universal)