While it may have been smart (maybe even genius) for Woody Allen to spoof his own signature brand of romantic comedies, Anything Else, the story of a dysfunctional 20-something couple played by Jason Biggs and Christina Ricci, is just plain desperate. There’s no tongue-in-cheek irony here. Allen can no longer couple himself with young beauties on screen and make it seem the slightest bit believable, so he’s resorted to hiring young protégés to appeal to a new generation. (Even the character he plays in the film—the Holocaust-obsessed David Dobel—plays mentor to Biggs’s Jerry Falk.) In the same role Allen has played for decades, Biggs talks to the camera, stutters through neurotic self-analysis, calls his girlfriend a “knock out” and, um, listens to Diana Krall. What kind of 20-something is this? Even Ricci’s Amanda is a Brandeis-reared hyper-intellectual: she uses words like “frigid,” makes references to Madame Bovary during casual conversation and buys her boyfriend a Sartre book for their anniversary. That’s not to say that Ricci, Allen, and a misused Stockard Channing don’t have their moments: Allen triumphantly (and psychotically) smashes the car of two ruffians who steal his parking spot; Channing, in the role of Amanda’s freeloading mother, snorts cocaine off Jerry’s laptop and says, “We just saw Elaine Stritch on Broadway…Do you want some coke?”; while Ricci has a handful of sharp one-liners (after being caught cheating on him, Jerry threatens to kill himself, to which she replies, “Don’t be so middle class!”). But ultimately, the Woodster recycles the same themes he’s explored more acutely (and delicately) in Husbands and Wives and more humorously (and authentically) in Annie Hall. Rather than take a candid look at the relationships of today’s youth, Anything Else simply dresses its young stars up like over-the-hill geeks and stuffs their mouths with ten-dollar words.
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