Picks and Pans Review: Whatever Works

updated 06/29/2009 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/29/2009 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Larry David, Evan Rachel Wood | PG-13 |

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In the hit-or-miss world of latter-day Woody Allen movies, his newest, Whatever Works, falls somewhere in the middle. This lightweight comedy, about a cantankerous coot (David) and the barely legal nymphet (Wood) who falls for him, starts off shaky but improves as it goes along. The 73-year-old filmmaker, who doesn't appear in this one, is again exploring a familiar theme: the inexplicability of love. More specifically, that who we fall in and out of love with is beyond our control, no matter how smart and sophisticated we think ourselves. (Or, as Allen so memorably put it in 1992, when explaining his affair with his then-girlfriend Mia Farrow's adopted daughter Soon-Yi Previn, "The heart wants what it wants.")

Curb Your Enthusiasm's David does a passable imitation of Allen, but it is more a tribute than a performance. Wood lays on the southern cornpone a little thick, but she still charms. And comic ace Patricia Clarkson, who shows up as Wood's disapproving mom, easily steals the film.

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