Director: Woody Allen
Cast: Woody Allen, George Hamilton, Tťa Leoni, Debra Messing, Mark Rydell, Tiffani-Amber Thiessen, Treat Williams
MPAA Rating: (for some drug references and sexual material)
Running Time: 1:54
Release Date: 5/3/02
Review by Mark Dujsik
Woody, what happened? Here it is, your chance to make a triumphant return to madcap, screwball comedy or give us a witty, scathing satire of Hollywood, and this is the result? Hollywood Ending, Woody Allenís latest writing/directing effort, is quite possibly his worst output. Now you might imagine that even a poor showing from Allen would be somewhat of a relief compared to a lot of comedies out there, but this one just never comes together. Allenís usually intelligent, trademarked comedic writing feels rushedóhis verbal barbs coming off lazy. The movie is a series of wasted ideas and surprisingly uninteresting dialogue strung together but never making a cohesive whole. The result is an incredibly slow, poorly paced, frequently boring comedy.
Allen once again stars in his movie as Val Waxman, a onetime successful Hollywood director now reduced to shooting deodorant commercials in the frozen wastelands of Canada. His ex-wife Ellie (Tťa Leoni) works for a studio that has just received a script that would be perfect for Val. After some much-needed persuasion, big-time studio executive Hal (Treat Williams), also Ellieís new love interest, approves the decision, despite Valís shady history of psychological dysfunctions on the set that have pushed projects into oblivion. Valís agent Al (Mark Rydell) tells him the news, and even though he is apprehensive about working for his ex-wife and the man she left him for, he takes the job. Everything in preproduction goes by smoothly. The studio lets Val take almost complete creative control of the production. The day before shooting starts, though, Val calls up Al with very bad news: Valís gone blind. Nothing is physically wrong with him, and a psychiatrist determines that his condition is psychosomatic.
The plot and jokes revolve around Valís attempts to conceal his blindness. He takes only a few people he can trust into confidence as the movie progresses. One of the major problems is that even though the characters never catch on, they treat him as if he is blind. He stumbles around, and people who have no idea guide him around as though itís normal (especially in one particular, crucial scene where the ruse is most important). The gags are redundant as well. How many times must someone come up to Val and ask which one of two choices he prefers? Val repeatedly wanders off for a moment and manages to crash into something. He looks in the wrong direction or examines something the wrong way until the split second that the people looking at him turn around. The joke culminates to its fullest level of tedium during a seduction scene, which is just too poorly staged even have an ounce of believability. Then thereís Allenís script, which forgoes any form of wit and replaces it with bad puns and obvious jokes. Examples: "Iím sure he has a vision" and "He could direct this movie with his eyes closed." That both of these lines appear within ten seconds of each other should get the point across.
The cast is relatively hit and miss, but the misses stick out enough to overshadow the effective members of the ensemble. Doing their jobs well are Tťa Leoni, Mark Rydell, and Treat Williams. Leoni and Rydell are likable enough, but Williams stands out by simply making a strong decision with his character and sticking to it. Debra Messing plays Allenís new live-in girlfriend, an aspiring actress looking to get a juicy part in Valís film. Sheís supposed to be the typical, dim actress, but the role is a misfire in Messingís hands. We donít get the sense of a poorly conceived character but instead one of an unsure performer. Allen, playing a flimsily disguised version of himself, wears thin. Dependable for his neurotic persona, his shtick gets old pretty quickly here. He rambles on and on, getting a lot of one-liners in here and there, but none of them stick.
The idea for a fine comedy is there, but the pieces of Hollywood Ending donít fit together and are defective in the first place. Allen has had a slow decline in the past few years. He had a string of more personal works, which were interesting to an extent. More recently, though, heís tried returning to straight comedy. This seems to be an attempt to combine both but fails on both counts.
Copyright © 2002 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
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