Everyone Says I Love You

January 2, 1997

Everyone Says I Love You. It sounds like a big joke played by some wiseacre pop culture magazine. A Woody Allen musical? With big stars like Alan Alda, Julia Roberts and Goldie Hawn… and they’re really singing? But, there it is, flickering away in a darkened theatre. Go figure.

In Woody’s defense, he’s has always proclaimed his love of old jazz-pop standards and the great MGM musicals, so really, this move isn’t that much of a surprise. Placing a musical format around a low grade Woody Allen comic-romance may have been a big mistake, though.

There’s two main narrative nuggets here - the first is the indecisiveness of Skylar (Drew Barrymore) in her upcoming nuptials to Holden (Robert Norton); the second featuring the sad state of Woody’s love life, and his desire to change that with Vonnie (Julia Roberts). The latter plotline dates back before the days of Allen’s Another Woman. Allen had originally envisioned the idea of a man privy to a woman’s confessions to her therapist - he’d learn everything about her, and then remake himself as her dream man and sweep her off her feet. This old idea is revived here in its entirety, and while it’s an intriguing concept, it soon becomes clear that Allen has played this card once too often.

Pauline Kael once said, “Some stars don’t realize that as they get older… they no longer need to use big, bold strokes; they risk self-caricature when they show their old flash.” Allen could have used this advice: his performance seems to overcompensate for the fact that we’ve been there to death with his neurotic, self-pitying King Leer. And really, Woody - aren’t you too old now to keep chasing those gorgeous young actresses around? Perhaps Allen should permanently change his character’s names to Humbert Humbert.

In any case, the real point of this film is the songs. There’s some great standards - “I’m through with love”, “If I had you”, “Makin’ Whoopee”, but having to listen to these actors trying to sing them is nearly as taxing on the ears as a Michael Bolton concert. Goldie Hawn’s warbling is worth noting, if only because she seems to be the sole singer aware of the concept of pitch. After Julia opens her big mouth, though, nightmares will be had for weeks. Geez louise, a John Woo movie has more melody than this, and is funnier, to boot.

Part of the charm of the classic musicals is the fact that they exist in a fanciful world, where it seems proper for people to burst out in song at the smallest provocation. Here, set in New York 1996, it’s jarring and downright bizarre. There is some silver in this murky cloud (Lukas Haas as a right-wing nut, the Chiquita Banana song, and Carlos DiPalma’s photography), but, to paraphrase an old film joke: There’s great Woody Allen, there’s great musicals, but there’s no great Woody Allen musicals. Everyone Says I Love You is all the proof you require.

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