I'd been looking forward to this. I hadn't been in touch with what Woody Allen's been doing since... great Scott, the 1970s?
This film is funny. It's sparky and it's got lots of good lines. However I didn't care about its characters, I had no interest in whether they lived or died and in the end I bailed after thirty minutes. I never do this! However I did it here. Even before I quit, I was finding other things to do, just to distract my attention from what was on screen.
The set-up is that Woody Allen is a small-time crook (d'oh), married to Tracey Ullman and planning a bank job. This is funny because Ullman has an acid tongue and because everyone's really stupid. (Ullman may or may not be excepted from that, but to be sure I'd have to finish watching the film and that's never going to happen.) Allen assembles a little group of friends and together they make the most ham-fisted attempt at executing their planned crime. That I don't mind. This gives us stupid gags, which are funny. My problem is that I didn't feel any love for the characters, no warmth from the film and certainly no attempt to make us empathise with them. There's a coldness, as if Allen's winding up clockwork toys.
Ullman and Allen bitch non-stop at each other. Allen is a twat and a git. His friends are quite nice, but they're career criminals too.
The actors are good, though. Apparently Hugh Grant's in it later on and I like him. Furthermore Ullman was nominated for a Golden Globe (Best Actress in a Comedy/Musical) and Elaine May won Best Supporting Actress at the National Society of Film Critics Awards. I've no complaints there.
Scarily, this film was Allen's highest-grossing in North America between Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989) and Match Point (2005). Yikes. I won't say I've been warned off him, but I will be picking and choosing my next attempt at his ouevre. However that said, I'm not kidding about the comedy. Even though I didn't like it, it was still making me laugh. Not big belly laughs, admittedly, but lots of sharp lines. To someone who likes that kind of thing, I could even imagine recommending it.
"That was sarcastic!"