Woody Allen: The next generation

New on DVD

Movies: on screen, DVD/ Video

January 01, 2004|By Terry Lawson | Terry Lawson,KNIGHT RIDDER / TRIBUNE

So, hey, it's the new year - why not celebrate with a little Woody Allen?

You can start with Anything Else (DreamWorks), which is the smartest and funniest Woody Allen movie in a long time, though that sounds like faint praise when you take into account that his previous two films were the mildly amusing Curse of the Jade Scorpion and the less-so Hollywood Ending.

Anything Else has Jason Biggs (American Pie) in the young Woody role. He's a comedy writer wildly in love with his girlfriend (Christina Ricci), even though she's a spoiled brat and has invited her mother to share their apartment. Oh, and she has intimacy issues - as in no sex for six months.

Anything Else is, therefore, exceedingly Allen-esque.

Allen plays the old Woody role of eccentric and unlikely adviser, but this time with some most un-Woody traits: He's a gun nut for starters and more likely to be found hanging out with a Michigan militia than the ACLU.

The screenplay is sharp with one-liners, and although Biggs is no replacement for the young Woody (or even previous stand-ins John Cusack and Tobey Maguire), he's a lot more appealing and convincing as a grown-up neurotic than you might have thought. This is Allen, so there is no commentary and certainly no outtakes. In fact, the last time I spoke to him, he still didn't own a DVD player.

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