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Review: Woody Allen's 'Whatever Works' Is Disappointing

June 16th, 2009 2:04pm EDT
Whatever WorksWhen I first heard that Larry David would be starring in Woody Allen's next film, "Whatever Works," I immediately thought this was dream casting. I mean, who better to spout out Woody Allen's monologues than Larry David? Both have been tagged with that moniker, Neurotic Jewish Comedian, how could this fail? I saw this film a couple of weeks ago and I've been trying to wrap my head around the reasons why I didn't enjoy this film ever since. Finally, at the press conference, where Woody Allen and Larry David were sitting right next to each other, it hit me: These two guys are absolutely nothing alike. Just look at both of their feelings toward New York City: Woody sees penthouses; Larry sees cockroaches. These two are not the same, these two are as different as two people could possibly be. It would almost be like Quentin Tarantino directing Alan Thicke.

Boris (Larry David) is a curmudgeon. A former physicist genius curmudgeon, mind you. Boris likes to give long, eloquent (in a curmudgeon sort of way) soliloquies to, really, no one in particular. He says there's an audience -- we, as an audience, think he's talking to us; his friends think he's insane for talking to a pretend audience. Whatever. On his way home one day he meets a young southern girl, Melodie (Evan Rachel Wood), living on the streets who he invites into his apartment. They soon get married; Melodie's somewhat bigoted, divorced parents -- the fantastic Patricia Clarkson and Ed Begley Jr. -- show up; said divorced bigot parents soon become liberal New Yorkers; hilarity ensues.

Whatever Works

Image © Sony Pictures Classics


Now, do you think I ran through these major plot points quickly? I think I added more brevity to each of these moments than Allen does. Woody claims that his last few films were only filmed in Europe for financial reasons, but there is little doubt these unfamiliar locations created a challenge for him as a filmmaker. Being back in his friendly confines of familiar surroundings seems to have given Allen the idea he can cut corners. He skips the "Here's how and why this happens" and jumps right into "Here's what did happen... just trust me, as unbelievable as it seems, it happened. Next scene."

With some exception, I like Woody Allen Films. I love Larry David on "Curb Your Enthusiasm." I can honestly say that I have never looked so forward to a Woody Allen Film. And, by contrast, I've never been so disappointed leaving a Woody Allen Film. Larry David and Woody Allen just seem like two comedic styles that shouldn't mix and David never seems completely comfortable with Allen's dialogue. You see: Woody Allen states that he wrote Boris as a despicable character and only Larry David could pull this off as likable. There may be some truth in that. But on the likable curmudgeon scale, Larry David written by Woody Allen can not come anywhere close to Larry David written by, well ... Larry David.

Grade: C

Mike Ryan
"Mike's Pulse" is a column written by transplanted Midwesterner and current New Yorker Mike Ryan. For any compliments or complaints -- preferably the former -- you may contact Mike directly at miker@starpulse.com
or submit reader questions for celebrites to Mike on Twitter.

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