Contrary to rumor, Woody Allen, 67, does not have sex with Christina Ricci, 23, in Anything Else. He leaves that to Jason Biggs, 25, who plays Jerry Falk, a very Woody-ish comedy writer. After pissing off prudes for his recent screen flings with spring-fresh Julia Roberts, Helen Hunt, Téa Leoni and Mira Sorvino, Allen takes the virtually neutered role of comedy writer David Dobel, Jerry’s mentor in art and life. David is more concerned with the Holocaust than with hitting on babes. He urges Jerry to arm himself against a new surge in anti-Semitism.
Because Allen hasn’t lost his knack for slapstick with a sting, Anything Else hits its mark more often than not. It’s good to see Biggs out of the American Pie basement. His take on the young Woody is a comfortable fit, as opposed to the squirming embarrassment of Kenneth Branagh in Celebrity. And Ricci, looking gorgeous, is a major asset as Amanda, the wanna-be actress who makes Jerry’s life hell. Amanda even moves her mother (the great Stockard Channing) into their apartment. Iranian cinematographer Darius Khondji (Seven), another newcomer to Allen films, brushes the Woodman’s beloved Big Apple with a dazzling color palette. You recoil when David tells Jerry to leave Manhattan and join him in Hollywood to write sitcoms. You go where the money is; it’s like anything else. Not for Allen. Faced with a dwindling audience for his films, he sticks to the city and the style that made him. That’s cutting it.