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Hollywood Ending

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Hollywood Ending

Starring: Woody Allen, Debra Messing
Director: Woody Allen
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 114 Minutes
Release Date: May 2002
Genre: Comedy

*Also starring: Tiffani-Amber Thiessen, Treat Williams, George Hamilton, Tea Leoni, Mark Rydell

Review by Steve Rhodes
2½ stars out of 4

Woody Allen has really found his groove these days. The problem is that it is one that allows him to churn out one mediocre movie after another. Unlike the brilliant pictures of his golden age, his recent films, like THE CURSE OF THE JADE SCORPION and SMALL TIME CROOKS, are all, well, okay. Viewers are guaranteed some nice laughs, but only some, and most of the gags seem like rip-offs of his old pictures.

Allen's latest, HOLLYWOOD ENDING, falls right into this groove. About Val Waxman (Allen), a neurotic director who can barely get work anymore, the story starts with Val filming a deodorant commercial in the desolate, frozen north. After he is fired on the first day and returns to his New York apartment, he tells Lori, his live-in girlfriend, "Have you ever seen Canada? Now I know why there's no crime up there." Yes, you guessed it. His girlfriend, played by Debra Messing, is four decades younger than him.

Val's salvation comes in the form of a deal with Galaxy Pictures to make a movie set in his native New York. Ellie (Téa Leoni), Val's ex-wife, has convinced Hal (Treat Williams), her fiancé and the billionaire head of Galaxy, to give Val the job. Val's fabulous offer, in addition to his salary, includes, "one twentieth of a point after quadruple breakeven." The movie is filled with such inside showbiz jokes. The best of these involves Haley Joel Osment. The art director whom Val insists on thinks that they need to rebuild Times Square, Central Park and the Empire State Building since the real things just won't do. Don't worry, Ellie tells Hal, since they'll only need to build the bottom twenty floors of the Empire State Building.

Most of the movie concerns Val's psychosomatic blindness, which causes him to direct the entire film without the crew catching on that he can't see. How his loss of vision is handled is central to the problems of Allen's script, direction and acting. Basically Allen turns the picture into a Vaudevillian farce, with his actors all playing to the cheap seats. As just one example of many that strains credulity, whenever Val talks to someone beside him, he never realizes the direction of their voice. If they are on his right, he will invariably turn to his left and talk with them with animated hand gestures. The actors perform as if Allen has instructed them that, since it's a farce, they don't need to try to be believable.

If you go, you'll undoubtedly find it pleasant enough, even if not quite worth recommending to your friends. Don't spoil it for others, however, by telling them the ending. It's a small gem hidden within an otherwise unremarkable movie.

HOLLYWOOD ENDING runs too long at 1:54. It is rated PG-13 for "some drug references and sexual material" and would be acceptable for kids around 10 and up.

Copyright © 2002 Steve Rhodes

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