Picking up the Pieces (2000) from Johnny Web

A very odd movie, a rare movie in which Woody Allen works for another director, and an unexpectedly entertaining flick. It was directed by Alfonso Arau ("Like Water for Chocolate")..

Woody Allen plays a guy who killed his ditzy promiscuous wife (Sharon Stone) and hacked her to pieces. Somehow, her hacked-off hand is discovered, is found to work miracles, and is assumed to be the hand of the Virgin.

(Wow, not even close. You'd think the day-glow nail polish would have given it away, not to mention the position of the fingers, which form a familiar obscene gesture).

Well, the local priest knows it can't be the Virgin, but he keeps his mouth shut because the small country church where it is enshrined becomes a Mecca for Christians everywhere, and the run-down town around it experiences a tourism bonanza, not to mention several miracles for the people of the town. In fact, everyone gets the miracle they request. The blind see, the legless grow legs, a midget gets a dick five feet long, small-breasted women turn into Uschi lookalikes, etc.

So when Woody shows up to tell the truth about the hand, the townspeople are just not happy at all. Especially when he steals the hand for a while, and all the miracles get rescinded.

There were several funny ideas in the film. One of the most intriguing was when the dead Sharon came back from the dead and appeared to Woody. He's terrified, but she just wanted to thank him for killing her and thereby saving her soul. ("I wasn't exactly heaven material until you made me a martyr"). She's completely happy with the afterlife except they temporarily placed her in the non-smoking section.

I laughed out loud several times during Woody Allen's confession, in which he admitted that it had been a long time since his last confession, in fact technically he had never been to confession because his being Jewish really threw a monkey wrench into the works. And he also, before confessing, wanted to clarify to the priest that although he was Jewish, he was not personally responsible for the death of Christ. In fact, the whole crucifixion thing was just a party that got out of hand. When the priest didn't laugh on the other side of the confessional, Woody said "it was a very funny joke for Lenny Bruce, but maybe not right for this room".

The film featured often odd cameos from such familiar faces as Fran Drescher, Eddie Griffin, Elliott Gould, Andy Dick, Lou Diamond Phillips, and Cheech Marin. I don't know that I can claim to be a great fan of Sharon Stone, but I think you'll find her brief appearance very funny and touching, and a beautiful bit of comedy economy.

I don't think this black comedy was ever released theatrically in the USA. It was shown only one time on Cinemax on May 26th.. Their websites indicate that they are still seeking distribution, but I guess that's out of date now that it has been released on VHS and DVD.

IMDb reviewers didn't even like it (5.5), but I really enjoyed it, and I recommend it if you are intrigued by the premise. I will warn you that you won't like it if you're a deeply religious person, but I guess that not many devoutly spiritual people read my comments. I noticed there's no hyperlink to me from www.Mormon.com.

NUDITY. It's actually a fairly sexy movie (the priest is in love with the local hooker), but there's no explicit nudity.

IMDB summary: 5.5 out of 10. Oh, bull! I went in and voted it an 8, just to do my part.

DVD info from Amazon.

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