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Whatever Works



I miss Woody Allen. Yes, he still makes movies, but the nebbishy genius responsible for some of the greatest films of the 1970s and '80s left us some years ago. He has long since cocooned himself in an illusory universe of preening, self-satisfied New York intellectuals who speak and behave with less believability than a Disney World animatron.

There are occasional glimmers of his old self, of course "? 2005's "Match Point" and last year's "Vicky Cristina Barcelona," to name two "? but "Whatever Works" is Allen at his most insufferable.

The script, which he reportedly wrote in the '70s, scrapes together elements of far-superior Allen efforts for a movie so smug and contrived, you wish it had a face just so you could smash it.

Boris Yelnikoff (Larry David of TV's "Curb Your Enthusiasm") is a misanthropic physicist-turned-chess teacher who winds up meeting Melodie (Evan Rachel Wood, "The Wrestler"), a naive teen runaway from Mississippi. The ensuing May-December romance is as unlikely as it is inevitable.

Boris is a mean-spirited boor, but the nubile rube "? in Allen's worldview, anyone from west of the East River is a hick "? inexplicably takes a shine to the guy.

Nestled in the tired compendium of Allen shtick is a plea for acceptance of love in all its many manifestations, whether it be between a geezer and a teenager, a m


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