Anything Else (2003) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Anything Else is Woody Allen's latest effort, his attempt to pass the torch to a new generation of Manhattan neurotics. In fact, it is very similar to Annie Hall in many ways, except that this time the Woodman has promoted himself to the position of Neurotic Emeritus, and has passed the official role of Leading Romantic Nebbish to Jason Biggs, the kid from the American Pie movies.

There is one other difference between this and the earlier film. Annie Hall kept us wondering whether Woody and his neurotic New York princess would end up as a couple. If I remember right, we wondered the same thing about the real-life Woody and his co-star Diane Keaton at the time. It was a real romantic comedy, albeit an eccentric one with a different kind of ending from the one we are accustomed to in romantic comedies. In this film, however, it is clear that the princess is just screwing Our Hero over - cheating on him with a variety of lovers while using him to provide room and board for her mother. That is an important distinction between the dynamics of the two films, because in Annie Hall we not only wonder whether they will make it, but we secretly root for them, because Annie is a nice person at her core, even if she is high-maintenance.

Neither is the romantic male lead in this film as likeable as former Allen characters. In this film, we want to reach through the screen, grab him by the collar, and tell him that there are about a million eligible women in the New York area, about a third of whom would love to have him as their lover and would bring him more peace of mind than his existing relationship. In fact, we lose respect for Our Hero when he dumps just such a "nice girl" at the beginning of the film. He lies to her and essentially throws her out in the cold so that he can take up in a doomed relationship with his manipulative and troubled - but sexy - Christina Ricci, under the pretext of "love at first sight". That action strips away our sympathy for him, turning him from a nebbish into a manipulator, and the Ricci character is even more manipulative, to a point where she is completely unsympathetic. So why do we care if they ever get together? In fact, we just want to tell him to stop being an asshole to nice people who care for him, and to dump this silly bitch before she ruins his life. The dramatic arc of the film centers around how long it will take for the couple to agree to a break-up, and which of them will instigate it.

Distilling the film to its essence, the audience is left watching two unsympathetic characters break up inevitably. That isn't much to hang a film on, is it? It probably wouldn't work at all except that Jason Biggs manages to borrow heavily against his substantial personal "everyman" reserve to evoke our sympathy, so we have some identification with him even after he lies to and mistreats the nice girl who cares for him.

Apart from that change in the nature of the hero and heroine, you could call Anything Else an update of Annie Hall. Enjoy the walks through Central Park and the Village, drop in to the favorite spots of the New Yorker set, listen to some of Woody's charmingly paranoid dialogue with old-time jazz accompaniment, and then forget the film thirty minutes after it ends.


There is no nudity, but Christina Ricci walks around for quite some time in nothing more than a t-shirt and panties.

DVD info from Amazon

  • no meaningful features

  • but a very solid anamorphic widescreen transfer of a stylishly photographed movie

I like Woody Allen's movies as pleasant time-killers, and this one is one of the best of the last decade, but I no longer look forward to the next Woody Allen movie, my friends no longer discuss what he's working on next, and we now greet the arrival of a new Woody Allen project with yawns.

I might never even have noticed this film at all if it had been directed by anyone else. While providing light entertainment, it is also repetitive, and completely lacking in daring. It wasn't noticed by many other people even with Woody's name attached, maxxing out at less than four million at the box office.

The Critics Vote ...

  • Super-panel consensus: two and a half stars. Ebert 3/4, Berardinelli 3/4, Entertainment Weekly C-.

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. IMDb voters score it 6.4/10, Yahoo voters C+.
  • Box Office Mojo. I'm not sure why the studios keep financing Woody's films, because his audience keeps shrinking smaller and smaller. This one cost $18 million to make, which must have run the total tab to $25 million with distribution costs, and it grossed only $3.2 million.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a C. If you don't like Woody Allen movies, stay away. If you do them, this plays out like a modernization of Annie Hall, and one of the better film in the second half of his career.  Like many people, I wish that statement had more value.

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