Anything Else (2003) / Comedy-Romance

MPAA Rated: R for a scene of drug use and sexual references
Running Time: 108 min.

Cast: Jason Biggs, Christina Ricci, Woody Allen, Stockard Channing, Danny DeVito, Kadee Strickland, Adrian Grenier, Erica Leerhsen 
Woody Allen
Screenplay: Woody Allen
Review published November 5, 2003

After Woody's latest string of mostly ignored films, he tries something old and something new.  The "old" is going back to the film that brought him the most success, Annie Hall, and craft a neurotic romantic comedy, while also returning to the anamorphic widescreen ratio he used in Manhattan.  The "new" is not marketing Anything Else as a Woody Allen movie, removing his typical name from above the title and omitting any reference to himself from the trailer, even though he is one of the main stars of the movie.  Sad to say, none of these attempts brought him any success, as Anything Else barely managed to produce a blip on the box office radar, taking in only about $3 million.  Even sadder is how far off of the mark Allen would be from the inspired genius of his older work, and by inviting comparison to his best of films, it only serves to point out just how far the once mighty filmmaker has fallen.

Jason Biggs (American Pie) takes the main role of Jerry, who alternates between telling his story in first-person and third-person, and delivers his lines as a mixture of Woody Allen (of course) and another first/third-person personality, Matthew Broderick in Ferris Bueller's Day Off.  Although involved in a relationship, he is quick to ditch it once he meets Amanda (Ricci, Sleepy Hollow), and the two quickly move in together.  However, things change once they are together, as Ricci no longer seems to have much interest in intimacy with him, denying him sex whenever the opportunity arises, and even encouraging him to see other women.  With help from friend and mentor Dobel (Allen), Jerry must deal with his life of constant stagnation and agony, either resolving his relationship with Amanda, or dissolving it.

As a comedy, Anything Else is only occasionally amusing, with most of the funnier bits going to Allen as the wisecracking eccentric, Dobel.  Biggs gives a decent performance copying Woody's mannerisms and speech patterns in a role that Allen would have normally cast himself in, but with a new marketing strategy, it's best to bring in new (and younger) blood.  The problem here is that now there are two Woody Allen-types onscreen, which is one Woody too many, and with so much stuttering and gesturing going on, it does occasionally grate on one's nerves.

Ricci seems quite comfortable playing the cold vixen, Amanda, but isn't really a good fit with delivering the lines written in traditional Woody Allen style.  The romance between Jerry and Amanda, although supposedly based on love, seems from the outset to be dysfunctional, so whenever they speak about loving each other, it all rings hollow.  To some extent, there is a reason for that in the story, yet it also creates an aloofness in the viewer, resulting in ambivalence in whether the two former lovebirds are able to patch things up or split permanently.

With a lack of romance and sparse laughs, Anything Else is a forgettable Woody Allen movie that will only please his fans that have given up any expectations of greatness from him.  If you're a younger viewer unfamiliar with Woody Allen's style, or are watching this because you're attracted to romantic comedies, I would say to skip this altogether.  It's probably better to watch anything else other than Anything Else.   

Qwipster's rating

©2003 Vince Leo