Picks and Pans Review: Hollywood Ending

updated 05/13/2002 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/13/2002 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Woody Allen, Téa Leoni, Debra Messing, Treat Williams

When did Woody Allen movies stop being a total treat and instead become almost a chore? There are still glimmers—a swell performance (from Leoni here), an occasional comic zinger—but lately his films seem to go straight from his typewriter to the camera without sufficiently polished scripts or enough effort to make the material fresh.

Case in point: Hollywood Ending. It's a wan, stretched-out romantic comedy about a washed-up movie director (Allen) in Manhattan who gets one last chance at a big picture courtesy of his ex-wife (Leoni), a Hollywood studio exec. Just before shooting starts, he suffers psychosomatic blindness but goes ahead with the filming, keeping his ailment a secret.

There's little payoff to the blindness (a dumb running gag has Allen never looking directly at the person talking to him), and the jokes about Hollywood moguls ("The price of his haircut would feed a family of five"), dim starlets and L.A. versus New York are stale. Allen has his character boast that while American critics may deride his work—et tu, Woody?—the French still love it. That's what's known as the Jerry Lewis defense. (PG-13)

Bottom Line: Mere kindling from the Woodman

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