Review

  • Woody Allen is one of those film-makers who some people love and others detest. I generally count myself as one of the former, but find this particular movie hard to take. The elements I certainly enjoy are several of the musical numbers (especially those sung by Edward Norton and Alan Alda; the surreal hospital and funeral parlour dances; and the chorus of Groucho Marxes), a few of the gags (especially about Lukas Haas as the right-wing son), the relaxed, professional performances by Alda and Goldie Hawn, and the enchanting views of Venice and Paris. On the other hand, there are some aspects that make the film almost unwatchable; these include the shortage of irony in the treatment of the upper class milieu, the surfeit of trite, unfunny (possibly improvised) dialogue, the dreadful singing by some of the actors, and Woody Allen's embarrassing love scenes with Julia Roberts.

    One major problem is that the film is clearly intended as a hommage to the Marx Brothers, being called after a song from one of their films; and it is set in a plush Upper East Side setting, that cries out for for some Marx-type debunking. But it is hard for the movie to poke fun at these upper crust characters, while requiring them to keep breaking into romantic 30s numbers. Also, who would play the debunker? The answer should be Allen himself, who after all is a comic and an admirer of Groucho; but in this film he's too occupied in playing a romantic lead. The nearest we get to the feel of, say, A Night at the Opera, is for a short period when Tim Roth as a released convict is at a social gathering; but again a romantic song breaks the anarchic, irreverent mood.

    Another glaring flaw is the absence of any proper resolution of the Allen/Roberts liaison, which seems to show a lack of interest by the director in his own movie; he might at least have written a few sharp lines for Roberts to say after he tells her that his apparent fulfilment of all her requirements in a man was a complete sham.

    But when all is said and done, this is only a movie (as Hitchcock said) and a musical comedy at that; so perhaps I should not take it too seriously, and give Woody credit for making a musical at all.