Film cheats Allen comedies

Few can argue that Woody Allen makes great romantic comedies. His films, including such classics as Hannah and Her Sisters, are a mix between a Neil Simon play and a trip to the psychotherapist. Allen’s movies are reliably funny, smart and timeless in their observations of sexually dysfunctional relationships. If only director Peter Chelsom’s Town and Country could have lived up to the Allen films it aspires to be.

Town and Country (New Line) starts off a lot like a Woody Allen movie. There are early hints that Town and Country may be a good movie. The great music, attractive characters, sharp sarcastic humor and even the appearance of Diane Keaton, combine to give the audience hope that Town and Country may in fact be an Allen surrogate.

But this is no Woody Allen movie. The story follows the lives of four well-to-do Manhattanites: Porter (Warren Beatty), an architect, Ellie (Diane Keaton), his interior designer wife, Griffin (Gary Shandling), an antiques dealer, and his wife Mona (Goldie Hawn). Griffin and Mona are longtime friends of Porter and Ellie, who exemplify the New York City power couple. He builds the houses and she does the decorating. They have their own picturesque home in the Hamptons and two beautiful children. By now Chesolm has succeeded in making the audience sigh with envy at the seeming perfection of their lives.

Their unfortunate friends Griffin and Mona are stuck in a loveless and shallow marriage. As it turns out, there is a good reason for their marital dysfunction, but that is something the audience finds out later.

Unhappily married Griffin cheats on Mona and tells Porter about it. Porter then starts thinking he should cheat on his wife using “everyone else is doing it” mentality. Unfortunately for the audience, Griffin does not suggest to Porter that they both jump off a bridge, and the movie heads further south.

It would have been easy for Chelsom to focus on Porter’s struggle to decide whether or not to cheat on his wife of 25 years just because other people are doing it. Instead, he awkwardly mixes a romantic comedy with zany National Lampoon’s-type of behavior complete with characters falling out of windows and other zaniness.

The horniness of the male characters is another element that makes the film much like part of the National Lampoon’s series. Women literally appear out of nowhere. They travel by air, snow and Fifth Avenue. They show up randomly, without warning, and most importantly, without explanation. And the sex is strange, leaving the audience to blurt out a collective, “Huh?”

After the painfully repetitive shots of Beatty (Bulworth) looking pensive, Diane Keaton (First Wives’ Club) is refreshing. In one hilarious scene her character Ellie tells Porter about a movie she saw earlier that day in which a woman kills her husband after finding out he is cheating on her. The whole time she flails a butcher knife around, scaring Porter, who of course, has infidelity on the brain.

The all-star comic ensemble sadly suffers from a bad script. Andie MacDowell (The Muse) and Jenna Elfman (Keeping the Faith) play floozies who are not even remotely funny. Charlton Heston, more famous today for his work with the National Rifle Association than his “serious” acting career, plays a gun-loving lunatic. His part is strangely entertaining but very out of place, like many things in the movie.

Town and Country tricks its audience. It starts off as a witty, intellectual film, with plenty of dialogue and potential, but ends up a puerile mess of over-aged horndogs and their stepped-on wives.

Town and Country is in theatres now

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