Deconstructing Harry (1997)

Woody Allen's new comedy is funny, thank goodness, 'cause it ain't 
moving, charming, or even particularly believable.  For starters, 
he's miscast himself.  Allen lacks the... gravity to effectively 
portray Harry Block, a pill-poppin', booze-swillin', whore-frequen-
ting, thrice-married best-selling author to whom the following is 
happening: (a.) he's suffering from writer's block, (b.) he's en-
during the wraith of friends and family members who take offense to 
his habit of basing his work on his life, and (c.) he's now being 
visited by those semi-fictional creations on the day he's driving
upstate, to accept an award from his old college.  (Initially, 
Allen cuts between scenes from Block's life and scenes from Block's 
stories.  Later, he begins blending both.)  Smaller roles are fil-
led by a dozen other stars, the spotting of which is as distracting 
as the fact that they rarely come alive in their roles.  (Too often, 
the film feels like a stage play, with actors hurling monologues-- 
or, Allen's case, one-liners-- at each other.)  

The anxious, almost frantic pace is also a challenge, as is trying 
to keep track of which ex-wife, ex-girlfriend, or other love inter-
est is being referenced in a given scene.  (And really, Woody, 
isn't it about time to start casting *older* actresses for these 
parts?)  Admittedly, the movie *is* side-splitting.  (My faves: 
gags on Death, Hell, and Darth Vader.)  And it's profane!  (How 
many blow-job jokes did you count?)  Too bad it's so empty.  Do you 
know what a black hole is?  One question:  why is Billy Crystal the 
only actor who plays both his character and the fictional take on 
his character?  He gives a devilishly good performance, though... 
With Judy Davis, Elizabeth Shue, Kirstie Alley, Bob Balaban, Eric 
Lloyd, Hazelle Goodman, Richard Benjamin, Demi Moore, Julie Louis-
Dreyfus, Stanley Tucci, and Robin Williams.  (Rated "R"/98 min.)

Grade: B-

Copyright 1998 Michael J. Legeros
Movie Hell is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros

Originally posted to triangle.movies in MOVIE HELL: January 4, 1998

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