Just because youre responsible for some certifiable classics doesnt mean every project you touch is gold. Each year, the prolific but private writer/ director adds another work to his filmography, and critics gush, only to grow indifferent toward it once the newness wears off. Cant we just call a spade a spade?
The Woodmans latest to be touted as his best in years is Midnight in Paris, opening Friday exclusively at AMC Quail Springs Mall 24. Its neither a work of excellence, nor mere greatness. Like a majority of Allens work, its simply a decent diversion, and nothing more. If any other filmmakers name were attached, how would it be received?
But wow, does it start with an absolutely dynamic sequence that raises ones hopes. Similar to his rightly celebrated, George Gershwin-scored prologue to 1979s Manhattan, this featherweight comedy opens with a day-to-night montage of spots around the City of Light. For the whole of a jazz number, each shot appears for four seconds; each has you lusting after a one-way ticket.
From a pure standpoint of scenery, Midnight in Paris is worth the $9.50 investment. For entertainment value, its not unless youre so easily amused that the mere mention of a famous name sends you into inexplicable fits of laughter.
Owen Wilson (Hall Pass) is Allens neurotic stand-in as Gil, a hack screenwriter who longs to write the Great American Novel. Hes accompanying his spoiled fiancée, Inez (Rachel McAdams, Sherlock Holmes), on a trip to Paris. One evening, strolling its streets alone, hes transported via magical cab to the 1920s, where he befriends such literary and artistic giants as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso, Gertrude Stein, Salvador Dalí and so on.
And I do mean and so on. If that smacks of gimmickry, thats because it is. Essentially, the no-brain comedy Bill & Teds Excellent Adventure did the same thing in 1999. It wasnt all that funny, either.
Dont mistake every line as some brilliant bon mot, as some audience members are wont to do the ones who wish the rest of the theater to believe them of superior intelligence because they recognize the names Alice B. Toklas and Edgar Degas. So did I; so what?
These fantasy sequences play curiously flat and bereft of ideas; Id much rather have watched Gil and Inez continue sight-seeing with her college crush, an arrogant bore played by a scene-stealing Michael Sheen (TRON: Legacy). Much of the plot then would be removed, but at least interest would exist.