September 23, 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 14  

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Woody Allen delivers generic teen romance

Anything Else

Starring: Jason Biggs, Christina Ricci, Woody Allen
Directed by: Woody Allen

Brian Wong
Gazette Staff

Gazette file photo
OKAY, WHERE'S THE APPLE PIE? Jason Biggs and Christina Ricci star in the mediocre Anything Else.

Maybe this film is an example of teen movie infiltration - slap together a couple of young Hollywood actors to battle it out in a romantic comedy that actually has a bit of a darker orientation than the usual boy-meets-girl-in-a-high-school-setting movie. But not only is the film centred around a couple who are older than they look, it's also a quite unsuccessful attempt at drawing in a younger crowd hoping to see a messy relationship between Jason Biggs and Christina Ricci.

The first surprise is: hey, it's a Woody Allen film! Okay, so you might've known the picture was directed by Allen but there's definitely no mistake it's his when those traditional white-text-over-black-background credits open the film and when you see the characters yap-yap-yap on the streets of New York City over a jazz soundtrack. If you had simply relied on the trailer and TV spot, seeing Allen on screen at the beginning of the picture is a sure indicator you're not going to get what you thought you were (because none of Allen's scenes appear in the promotional clips). However, this deliberate attempt to sell a Woody Allen film as not a Woody Allen film isn't so problematic. What is irritating is the second surprise: how weak this Allen film is.

With a pattern set by Allen's classic romantic comedy Annie Hall - the screwball relationship, the use of flashbacks for a non-linear narrative and the male lead's intermittent removal of himself from the scene in order to explain his thoughts directly to the camera - Biggs plays comedy writer Jerry Falk. Falk is forced to re-evaluate his priorities when his relationship with his girlfriend Amanda (Ricci) hits some rough patches; she feels fat, she's dieting and she's so repulsed by the thought of him touching her that, in one scene, she gets nauseous and is left gasping for air. Allen plays Jerry's friend and confidant David Dobel who is increasingly finding new ways to take the law into his own hands.

It sure sounds quirky, but it's rarely as surreal, clever or funny as some of the bits in Allen's previous films. The neuroticism is still intact, though it comes off somewhat tiring for much of the film. Ricci seems to have a good grasp on the all-important kook factor of Allen's characters (it helps when you naturally look kooky) and gives Amanda her demanding, can't-live-with-her personality which is balanced by her edgy and sexy can't-live-without-her side of the coin. However, the choice of Biggs is questionable as he still isn't able to shake off that horny, frat-boy loser image.

But perhaps the biggest surprise is the third: the character played by Woody Allen DOES NOT get the girl. It's too bad though, because aside from the scene in which the boyfriend of Amanda's easy-going mother (a fun Stockard Channing) cuts up some blow on the cover of Jerry's laptop, the idea of an Allen-Ricci romance sounds a lot more exciting than anything else in this film.



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