"Six shrinks later, three wives down the line, and I still can't
get my life together," Harry Block tells his psychiatrist in
DECONSTRUCTING HARRY. Woody Allen, playing Harry as a parody of
himself, is back. With his usual self-deprecating humor, he spends
copious time with his shrink, and, as always, he obsesses over sex. At
his son's grade school, Harry advises his little boy, "The two most
important things are the work that you choose and sex."
Woody surrounds himself with a cornucopia of friends (Kirstie
Alley, Richard Benjamin, Eric Bogosian, Billy Crystal, Judy Davis,
Mariel Hemingway, Amy Irving, Julie Kavner, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Demi
Moore, Elisabeth Shue, Stanley Tucci and Robin Williams among
others),creating too much of a distraction as these excellent actors
parade through the movie. The jumbled result is a frequently humorous
show -- although there are not as many big laughs as in most Allen
films -- that disappoints as often as it surprises. Still, a mediocre
Woody Allen comedy is better than the best films of some directors.
As in THE PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO, Allen plays games with reality and
fiction and upsets the time-space continuum. Harry Block is a writer
of semi-autobiographical tales. In one of the more interesting twists,
most of the roles in the picture are played by two characters. There
are the movie's main characters and the ones from Harry's book and
short stories, who in turn are modeled on the main characters.
To complicate things further, Harry's stories constantly mock
Woody Allen's recent troubles. Harry describes himself, for example,
as "a guy who can't function well in life but can in art." Or as his
psychiatrist tells him, "You expect the world to adapt to the
distortion you've become."
DECONSTRUCTING HARRY is filled with vignettes of comedic anger,
and, like most of Allen's works, it pokes fun at his fellow Jews.
After several dozen movies, most of Allen's characters seem to be
repeats from his previous movies. The two fresh ones this time are
newcomer Hazelle Goodman's black hooker role and Robin Williams's fuzzy
Robin Williams plays a actor named Mel, who gets "soft" during the
filming of a movie. He gets out of focus, and there is nothing they
can do to sharpen him up again. ("Daddy's out of focus, Daddy's out of
focus," his son taunts him.)
Woody looks older and more tired than ever in DECONSTRUCTING
HARRY, but he can still turn a phrase and create an unforgettable
image. Although his recreation of hell with Billy Crystal as the devil
shows no spark of creativity, his rendering of a Bar Mitzvah with a
STAR WARS theme does.
The lightweight story eventually runs out of gas and stops, but it
provides little to take away other than some fleeting humor. Just a
year ago, Woody's EVERYONE SAYS I LOVE YOU proved that Woody still
possesses his genius. Let's hope for better things next time from
Woody than DECONSTRUCTING HARRY.
DECONSTRUCTING HARRY runs 1:35. The film is rated R for
profanity, sex, brief nudity and some dope smoking. It would be fine
for older teenagers.
Copyright © 1997 Steve Rhodes