Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB. USA/Germany, 2001. DreamWorks, VCL Communications, Gravier Productions. Screenplay by Woody Allen. Cinematography by Fei Zhao. Produced by Letty Aronson. Production Design by Santo Loquasto. Costume Design by Suzanne McCabe. Film Editing by Alisa Lepselter.
Woody Allen‘s clever zingers pour out of his mouth constantly but fall flat in this overtired and badly paced comedy, his least impressive in years. He plays a 1940s insurance investigator who is at odds with his female superior (a very lovely Helen Hunt), who is herself keeping late hours with her married boss (Dan Aykroyd in a superb performance). Little do Allen and Hunt know, but they’ve been hypnotized by a somnambulist (David Ogden Stiers), who is using them to steal precious jewels from the very same people they’ve been hired to protect. Usually Allen’s genre pieces are his clever way of using a familiar cinematic story to explore the kinds of characters he likes to present on screen: Manhattan Murder Mystery worked well as a murder mystery movie, but it was really about was a bored housewife who finds her life again after taking herself for granted for too long. Here, there’s no deeper surface and nothing to discover, so Allen is basically expecting us to only enjoy the mechanics of his weary plot. Unfortunately, there isn’t much to enjoy, and the lazy editing and Allen’s constantly using takes of himself that were obvious flubs (he corrects his lines repeatedly) get the better of one’s patience. Period detail is dead-on, and surprisingly, the supporting performance by Charlize Theron as the Veronica Lake-like heiress is rather awkward and the role forgettable, while the tiny bit that Elizabeth Berkley (that’s right, Showgirls Elizabeth Berkley) has as Allen’s secretary is thoroughly charming. Best to just watch Bullets Over Broadway again.