Mighty Aphrodite

A Comedy of Leftovers

Tonia Steed

Some people just don't know how to throw anything away. Woody Allen probably started to do a little spring cleaning, sorting through those outtakes from Husbands and Wives, visual gags and funny lines he'd scribbled on cocktail napkins, and phone numbers of talented actors who might be funny if they just had the right material. He threw it all into a pile and presto! Mighty Aphrodite sprang forth.

Woody calls himself Lenny, a genial, if nebbishy, sportswriter. Helena Bonham Carter plays his shallow wife, Amanda, who does little but pout prettily and push the hair from her big brown eyes. Lenny and Amanda adopt baby, Max, and when their marriage starts to stagnate Lenny decides to track down Max's birth mother, Linda (Mira Sorvino). Linda turns out to be the cliche of Lenny's classist nightmares (not to mention countless classist films); a small time call girl/ porn star whose bust overshadows her I.Q.

Panicked, Lenny attempts a deus ex machina, complete with commentary from a Greek chorus led by F. Murray Abraham -- a punch-line stretched to a full-length concept. Lucky for Lenny, he runs into Kevin (Michael Rappaport), an aspiring boxer who's looking to settle down with a nice girl. Lenny sets up the hooker with the heart of gold and the boxer with the head of lead, and all's well until the gods decide to play footsie with his plans. Of course, scenes of Lenny spouting and fumbling hilariously are sprinkled throughout.

Following on the heels of his tightly plotted last two films, Manhattan Murder Mystery and Bullets Over Broadway, this tangle of predictable comic scenarios and triple-take jokes is disappointing. Mighty Aphrodite looks like a Woody Allen film, smells like a Woody Allen film, and certainly talks like a Woody Allen film... yup, it's definitely Woody Allen -- but this time there's no film. Mighty Aphrodite is little more than an extended stand-up routine with Woody's requisite New York locations and a bunch of vintage characters draped around it. Let's hope he's used up his leftovers here and is ready to make a new film sometime soon.