“This isn’t the feelgood movie of the year,” says our hero during the first of many, lengthy, broken fourth wall moments in Woody Allen’s latest comedy. He isn’t lying.

Boris Yellnikoff is a brilliant if grumpy New York quantum mechanics professor who realises that life is futile and pointless and goes around boring his friends with long, existential rants about God and A Wonderful Life and becomes so consumed by his neuroses that he fails to find the joy or beauty in the life around him. Haven’t we been here before? Yes. Yes, we have. The only surprise thus far is that Woody Allen isn’t in the lead role. Instead, we have Larry David playing Woody Allen playing Boris Yellnikoff.

We learn in that first broken fourth wall moment that Boris nearly won a Nobel Prize, developed panic attacks due to his genius mind and realisation that nothing is forever. He throws himself out of a window, survives, loses his wife and now makes a living from essentially insulting children while operating under the premise that he’s teaching them chess. Chess instructors must make more money than I thought because he’s able to sustain a comfortable lifestyle in New York’s Chinatown.

The film seems to take a fifteen minute detour from credibility when a Southern Belle named Melody (Evan Rachel Wood) literally turns up on his doorstep, a stranger and a vagrant, begging for food and shelter. Boris, suddenly developing a heart, provides this for her, treats her like a moron and utterly inexplicably they fall in love and get married.

We come at least within throwing distance of reality once our basic set-up is complete and then a few spanners decide to gang up on the works. Melody’s mom (played by Patricia Clarkson and the first of two “Wasn’t she in Frasier?” moments) turns up, is understandably miffed at the turns her daughter’s life has taken. Mommy Dearest then proceeds to try and scupper her daughter’s relationship by setting her up with a British actor called … wait for it … credibility get ready to look away again … Randy. His name is Randy. He says so. With a straight face. Randy. And while credibility is otherwise occupied, let me add that the mother then discovers she has a knack for art, becomes bohemian and starts living with two men.

“Whatever works,” Woody Allen says to us through the medium of film. “So long as you’re happy and you’re not hurting anyone, fine, go for it, have a ball.” Woody then takes this message, wraps it around a baseball bat and batters us over the head with it for an hour and a half.

And sadly, for all Larry David makes a good Larry David, he doesn’t really do a good Woody Allen. Evan Rachel Wood, who was excellent in Thirteen and pretty damned fine in everything else of hers I’ve seen, continues to impress and she makes the most of a role that doesn’t really demand too much from her.

At several points, I thought this would make a half-decent play. You know the sort; compact and tightly shot, lots of navel-gazing, profound observations on the universe, funny in the way that you’re more likely to think, “oh, yeah” to yourself rather than laugh out loud but generally kinda works because it’s in the right environment. On the big screen, the comedy doesn’t even work to the “oh, yeah” level. It’s tired, obvious and thanks to the icky nature of the main relationship, it lacks any real charm. And with everything being so contained, we don’t even have majestic cinematography to fall back on.

Overall, it’s a lackluster amalgam of so much from Woody Allen’s back catalogue that in years to come, it will barely register and suddenly, the likes of Annie Hall, Manhattan and Mighty Aphrodite all seem a very long time ago.

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