Don’t get me wrong, I love Woody. I do. I’d happily trade my last death row meal for a screening of Crimes and Misdemeanours. And he’s had something of a rebirth since everyone decided to go and see Midnight in Paris. But, ever since the whole, erm… you know, with the [low whistle] and the whomp whomp, Woody Allen’s been keeping something of a lower profile. He’s still churning out films of differing mediocrity like a zealous battery hen that happens to have European financial backing. But now he tends to stay safely behind the camera, so people don’t get that faint queasy feeling when he appears on screen and start thinking about his marital relations. Instead a variety of actors have taken the obvious Woody role with differing results. Here’s a selection of the least glittering.
John Cusack, Bullets Over Broadway (1994)
It’s almost like that scene in The Trip where Coogan and Brydon try to out Michael Caine each other. Cusack is WAY too Woody in an otherwise enjoyable period romp. It’s like Woody after a Cocaine and Guarana smoothie. As it was released so soon after the shit hit the fan with Mia, perhaps Woody was just happy that anyone was appearing in one of his films and didn’t give a monkeys what they did, as long as they weren’t chasing him with a flaming torch or throwing offal in his general direction.
Kenneth Branagh, Celebrity (1998)
Another Woody Allen via a dire Les Dennis style impersonation with Branagh sporting a non-too convincing American accent and more stuttering than a King’s Speech fan club convention. Such a strange strange film. Woody goes ‘adult’ which means liberal blowjob references and a myriad of shoehorned celebs drop the F-bomb as if they were in the Big Brother house. The whole thing has a really unpleasant sheen – especially the female characters. On the whole, it felt like a great big ‘meh’
Jason Biggs, Anything Else (2003)
A weird one as Woody is in there as well, so you get Woody being Woody and Biggs being sort of Woody in the same scene. In fact, I think the problem is that Biggs is such a shoddy actor that Woody turns into uber-Woody to try and get some energy into yet another languid, airless moment. Once out of Woody’s orbit (see clip below) old Jase stutters and burbles it up like the best fake Woodys out there.
Larry David, Whatever Works (2009)
I think we all developed a slight boner when we heard Larry was going to star in a Woody Allen film. Seemed too good to be true. And it was. As the fake Larry David has shown in Curb (especially his disastrous appearance in The Producers), he’s not really an actor. And it seems the real Larry isn’t either. He just does his usual shtick with a bit more stuttering and slightly less edge with the odd Woddyism chucked in for yuks. And what’s up with the fucking titles for these films? Whatever Works? Anything Else? They’re getting so generic and pointless. What’s next, ‘Now What’? ‘Who’s Here’? ‘What’s Next’?
Will Ferrell, Melinda and Melinda (2004)
Perhaps the ultimate Woody substitute film. I felt like everyone in the cast was having a crack at doing Woody in this one. But Will was the worst. Something about adding a liberal dash of Woody to his on-screen persona made him completely unpalatable. I mean, I think that’s what they were going for, trying to make his character a complete mensch, but his performance made me want to rush to the bathroom and squirt heroin in my eyes.
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