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Mighty Aphrodite

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Mighty Aphrodite

Starring: Mira Sorvino, Woody Allen
Director: Woody Allen
Rated: R
RunTime: 95 Minutes
Release Date: November 1995
Genres: Comedy, Drama, Romance

*Also starring: F. Murray Abraham, Steven Randazzo, Rosemary Murphy, Peter Weller, Olympia Dukakis, Jack Warden, Helena Bonham Carter, David Ogden Stiers

Review by Andrew Hicks
3 stars out of 4

If you think people who walk around talking to themselves are strange, you'll gain a new respect for them when you see MIGHTY APHRODITE, the latest Woody Allen film, in which he regularly consults with imaginary characters from Greek tragedies. The Greek chorus, led by F. Murray Abraham, narrates the movie from an outdoor theatre and even performs a couple a cappella song and dance numbers. But this isn't some weird fantasy either; the real star, as always, is Allen, who plays a slightly toned-down version of his usual uptight, neurotic self.

His wife (Helena Bonham-Carter) wants a baby but doesn't want to give up a year of her life carrying and delivering it, so she talks him into adoption. Even though Woody is dead-set against it (after all, think of the trouble he got into the last time he adopted a child), they end up with a newborn son anyway, and over the years, Allen is convinced his son inherited the intelligence of some superhuman Mensa members, and decides to track down the parents.

The Greek chorus warns him not to (but then again, no one listens to the Greek choruses in their heads) but Woody sneaks into the adoption agency files and gets a name and a phone number anyway. Several apartments and name changes later, he finds out the mother is Linda Ash (Oscar nominee Mira Sorvino), part-time porno star (SORVINO: I was in THE ENCHANTED PUSSY. ALLEN: I don't believe I've seen that one...) and full-time hooker. So he sets up an appointment with her at her apartment, where the clock on the wall with the two pigs humping ensures even the most uptight men will be in the mood.

Woody wisely resists the urge to become the woman's client and instead slowly becomes the woman's friend, a confidant who cares enough to try to turn the woman's life around. She doesn't know he adopted her son (which provides a huge irony at the end of the movie), she just thinks he's some kind of whacko whose sexual fetish involves helping strangers on the road to a better tomorrow, kind of like Michael Landon in "Highway to Heaven." And with no one else in her life to care about her, she welcomes the perennial beacon of hope that is Woody Allen.

After a bonding experience at a horse race (where Sorvino bets on "Eager Beaver"), Woody tries to play matchmaker. And if you think his taste in women is weird, you should see the guy he picks out for her, a boxing onion farmer who's as dumb as a box of hammers (Michael Rappaport, the neo-Nazi from HIGHER LEARNING) and wants a nice "church girl." Woody bends the truth a little bit by telling him she's a virgin (and, to be honest, he was only a few hundred sexual experiences off on that estimate), but rest assured he only has the best intentions.

The ending is as contrived and far-fetched as they come, but it's a welcome one. In MIGHTY APHRODITE, Allen returns to his 70's roots of making movies that are more entertaining than believable but still make a few serious observations about people. Allen is in top form as always, even though he looks a little too too old at this point to be a new father. He'd be attending that kid's graduation in a wheelchair. Still, like I said, it doesn't have to be believable as long as it's entertaining. Woody is the rare sort of filmmaker who can switch gears between movies, from the cynical dramas (INTERIORS, SEPTEMBER) to the wacky comedies (BANANAS, ANNIE HALL), while almost always being entertaining.

Copyright 1995 Andrew Hicks

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