Anything Else (2003)

Directed by Woody Allen

This movie puts me in mind of the expression, “They can’t all be gems.” With someone like Woody Allen who, as a director, is fairly prolific, you can’t help but have some duds. If it sometimes seems like more duds than most it’s only because he produces so many more movies than most.

With Anything Else, we get a dud. The movie is flat, bland, largely boring (though it does have some good scenes.)

Despite what some may say, I think Allen continues to try new things with his movies. Recently, however, those new things aren’t necessarily cinematic approaches. They are new things in the sense of his stories. For example, Hollywood Ending seemed to simply be Allen riffing on an interesting comic idea – a blind director.)

In this latest film, Anything Else, I think the “new thing” is trying to tell his story through younger people. Some see the film as a pale version of Annie Hall and to some degree this may be true.

But I think it’s only true in the sense that it’s a romantic story told the way Allen tells those stories – with the Woody Allen voice.

But it’s that voice that is the problem (together with a script that has good dialogue but a weak story).

Jason Biggs and Christina Ricci in Anything Else

The biggest problem, for me, is Jason Biggs. He brings absolutely nothing to the role. To be fair, he has to deal with presenting a character that is essentially the Woody Allen character of movies like Annie Hall.

What is needed is a performance that either mimics Allen (which would be a bad idea) or somehow revises the voice and makes it Biggs own, as a distinct character.

But neither happens. We simply get a bland character to whom things happen. There is nothing for other performers to play off of, nothing to engage an audience. His lines are often quite good, but they fall flat with the one note performance. And given that his character is at the centre of the movie, this is disastrous. It gives the movie its tone – dull.

Woody Allen and Jason Biggs.

Where the film works and shows some life are the scenes where Allen appears, as well as those of Stockard Channing and Danny DeVito. (DeVito is especially good in the movie as an agent with a single client and way out of his depth in the entertainment business.)

One of the strong suits of Woody Allen movies is the dialogue. In many ways, his movies are all dialogue. He would have been a fabulous playwright had he chosen to go that way. As it is, he’s a fabulous screenwriter and director when he’s on his game.

Here, however, his dialogue doesn’t work simply because it’s coming from someone who really doesn’t know what to do with it.

Thankfully, Allen’s movies take an ensemble approach so Anything Else isn’t unrelentingly dull – we do get scenes with Allen, Channing and DeVito.

But by and large this movie is a snooze festival.

(I haven’t seen any of the American Pie movies that feature Biggs. Given the blandness of his performance here, I’m not persuaded to change that any time soon.)

© 2003 Piddleville Inc.

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