It’s not easy to be a fan of the Woodman. It’s not popular to count him as a fave these days. There’s little denying his stellar stand-up and TV writing in the 60s or his classic films of the 70s and 80s. Even in the 90s he had some gems. Woody Allen is 75 next year and he still makes a movie every year. What other auteur has/had this kind of output and quality?
But the oughts have been unkind to him or rather his sense of humor has started to seem stale or old-manish. Let’s look at this decade of Woody Allen.
Whatever Works (2009) – good, not great, but worth it for fans
Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008) – top ten Woody, loved it
Cassandra’s Dream (2007) – slight, not a fave, not horrible, but not rewatchable
Scoop (2006) – fun, light, nothing new
Match Point (2005) – top ten Woody, excellent
Melinda and Melinda (2004) – pretty good, interesting to see Will Ferrell do Woody, but not great
Anything Else (2003) – Unwatchable, maybe his worse. Terrible casting, just ugh.
Hollywood Ending (2002) – mildly amusing, but kinda that old manish, unfunny bit
The Curse of the Jade Scorpion (2001) – I don’t like Helen Hunt or this movie. One of the worst.
Small Time Crooks (2000) – fun, goofy slapstick, kinda like a early 70s one, good enough.
So, I see two of his best, two classics in this decade. He’s not done. I have high hopes for his next:
Untitled Woody Allen London Project (2010) (pre-production) with Naomi Watts, Anthony Hopkins, Josh Brolin, Freida Pinto and Antonio Banderas
He has had success shooting in London and Europe lately.
So back to Whatever Works, playing now in many cities or coming soon near you…I’d probably rank it around #4 or 5 of his ten this decade. I don’t think it will win any new fans, but for his old fans, it’s pretty good. Judging from those who saw the advance screening, it was evenly mixed. Some said one of his lesser works or just didn’t like it all, especially Rachel Evan Wood. Others laughed a lot and liked it and Larry David especially.
Overall grade: B or B- for those who care. B- or C+ for those who don’t.