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Deconstructing Harry

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Deconstructing Harry

Starring: Woody Allen, Kirstie Alley
Director: Woody Allen
Rated: R
RunTime: 93 Minutes
Release Date: December 1997
Genres: Comedy, Romance

*Also starring: Caroline Aaron, Bob Balaban, Richard Benjamin, Eric Bogosian, Billy Crystal, Judy Davis, Mariel Hemingway, Judd Hirsch

Reviewer Roundup
1.  Steve Rhodes review follows movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review
2.  Jerry Saravia read the review ---
3.  Harvey Karten read the review ---

Review by Steve Rhodes
2½ stars out of 4

"Six shrinks later, three wives down the line, and I still can't get my life together," Harry Block tells his psychiatrist in DECONSTRUCTING HARRY. Woody Allen, playing Harry as a parody of himself, is back. With his usual self-deprecating humor, he spends copious time with his shrink, and, as always, he obsesses over sex. At his son's grade school, Harry advises his little boy, "The two most important things are the work that you choose and sex."

Woody surrounds himself with a cornucopia of friends (Kirstie Alley, Richard Benjamin, Eric Bogosian, Billy Crystal, Judy Davis, Mariel Hemingway, Amy Irving, Julie Kavner, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Demi Moore, Elisabeth Shue, Stanley Tucci and Robin Williams among others),creating too much of a distraction as these excellent actors parade through the movie. The jumbled result is a frequently humorous show -- although there are not as many big laughs as in most Allen films -- that disappoints as often as it surprises. Still, a mediocre Woody Allen comedy is better than the best films of some directors.

As in THE PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO, Allen plays games with reality and fiction and upsets the time-space continuum. Harry Block is a writer of semi-autobiographical tales. In one of the more interesting twists, most of the roles in the picture are played by two characters. There are the movie's main characters and the ones from Harry's book and short stories, who in turn are modeled on the main characters.

To complicate things further, Harry's stories constantly mock Woody Allen's recent troubles. Harry describes himself, for example, as "a guy who can't function well in life but can in art." Or as his psychiatrist tells him, "You expect the world to adapt to the distortion you've become."

DECONSTRUCTING HARRY is filled with vignettes of comedic anger, and, like most of Allen's works, it pokes fun at his fellow Jews. After several dozen movies, most of Allen's characters seem to be repeats from his previous movies. The two fresh ones this time are newcomer Hazelle Goodman's black hooker role and Robin Williams's fuzzy part.

Robin Williams plays a actor named Mel, who gets "soft" during the filming of a movie. He gets out of focus, and there is nothing they can do to sharpen him up again. ("Daddy's out of focus, Daddy's out of focus," his son taunts him.)

Woody looks older and more tired than ever in DECONSTRUCTING HARRY, but he can still turn a phrase and create an unforgettable image. Although his recreation of hell with Billy Crystal as the devil shows no spark of creativity, his rendering of a Bar Mitzvah with a STAR WARS theme does.

The lightweight story eventually runs out of gas and stops, but it provides little to take away other than some fleeting humor. Just a year ago, Woody's EVERYONE SAYS I LOVE YOU proved that Woody still possesses his genius. Let's hope for better things next time from Woody than DECONSTRUCTING HARRY.

DECONSTRUCTING HARRY runs 1:35. The film is rated R for profanity, sex, brief nudity and some dope smoking. It would be fine for older teenagers.

Copyright 1997 Steve Rhodes

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