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Starring Michael Rapaport, Mira Sorvino,
Helena Bonham Carter, F. Murray Abraham
Written and directed by Woody Allen
Ah, Love is truly a powerful thing. It can drive a fifty-something man into the arms of a teenager and wreck his "normal" family life.
Oh, wait a second, that's Woody Allen's real life.
In Mighty Aphrodite the teen is a twentysomething hooker, and Allen doesn't fall into her arms until his wife has made the first move elsewhere. Take *that* Mia F.!
But unlike real life, male and female make up and live happily ever after. With an interesting twist that I won't give away, cuz I've given away too much already.
And the sad thing is that this film isn't even good Woody Allen. It isn't a ROFL like Bananas. It isn't sophisticated like Annie Hall. It's just passable fair.
What does work for Mighty Aphrodite is it's use of a Greek Chorus to comment on and drive the main action (Woody et al) along. The story itself -- a couple adopts a baby and when the relationship gets rocky, the man seeks out the birth mother; he winds up playing Aphrodite to the girl, rather than taking her to bed -- isn't much. The classic Woody character does not find himself in outlandish situations, they just seem a bit out of the ordinary and *that* they are ordinary is the reason that most of the film is little more than amusing.
Or perhaps it is just that we have seen the Woody character do the same shtick over and over again. Woody with a hooker. Woody with the hooker's pimp (who threatens great bodily damage -- you know the rest).
Which is why the new material saves the day. The film opens in an ancient amphitheater with F. Murray Abraham leading the Greek Chorus -- basically two dozen people in masks and robes that tell the story -- through their paces, telling ancient tales. Until the commentary contains Jewish names, and starts referring to such esoteric places as Cincinnati.
And then the wall cracks and Abraham and the Chorus begin appearing in the modern day story, communicating directly with Allen's character. In the past, Allen kept that role to himself, turning to the camera to render commentary. Now he argues with, and gives orders to, Abraham. In a bar, in an adoption agency while he rifles the files ("You keep watch" says he) the neurotic Allen character of old has to deal with a more assertive Allen character.
It is that conflict which causes the problem. Woody has reached an age where his actions and reactions are *not* the center of the story. And the story is all the more weaker for it. As the center gets weaker, the supporting elements get stronger, and it is there that the interest lies.
Besides the chorus, those supporting elements include Michael Rapaport as a brain dead boxer with, ultimately, little redeeming value; the only slightly more intelligent hooker (Mira Sorvino) and Helena Bonham Carter as Mia Farrow. Mighty Aphrodite is not a *bad* film, as far as films go, it just isn't good Woody Allen. As far as bad films go, and Lord knows there are enough of em out there, Mighty Aphrodite stands head and heels above them. Which puts it dead center as a top of the pile rental, and a bottom of the list date movie...
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price for , he would have paid . . .
...But not much more.
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