Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway' Looks Dazzling, But Misses Its Target
The film is given a raunchy Broadway makeover.
The reviews are in for Woody Allen's eagerly-awaited musicalisation of the hit screen comedy Bullets Over Broadway, starring Zack Braff ('Scrubs', Nick Valenti ('The Sopranos') and Helene Yorke ('Masters of Sex'). Braff plays a struggling playwright whose big break gets him entangled with gangsters in Prohibition-era New York. Cue explosive dance routines, dark humour and dazzling costumes from director-choreographer Susan Stroman's lavish production.
Zach Braff Leads The Way In The Dazzling 'Bullets Over Broadway.'
The production is fairly unusual in that it relies upon existing period music, rather than an original score. Unfortunately critics don't seem to have been able to look beyond the disparity between certain scenes and the corresponding musical numbers. "The problem is that most of the songs are inorganic to the plot and characters," says THR's David Rooney, explaining "They seem dictated by the energy requirements of only moderately funny material."
"Flat where it should be frothy, the show is a watered-down champagne cocktail that too seldom gets beyond its recycled jokes and second-hand characterizations to assert an exciting new identity," he adds. "This musical certainly works its tail off to tickle and delight.," begins NY Daily News before adding "It's too bad that the comedy about a playwriting hit man is a bit of a miss."
Bullets... "is unabashedly theatrical," says the LA Times' Charles McNulty, who praises the glamorous production: "There's certainly much to savor in this gin fizz cocktail of a show, tossed back in the Art Deco glory of Prohibition-era New York." He can even see past the struggling humour to enjoy the story's highs and lows: "Even when the jokes fall flat and the songs [.] seem incongruous, the show has the galloping vigor of a runaway hit, if few of the ecstatic peaks.
However, the show's script comes into question once again; an aspect that seems to have ruined the experience for many critics. "Scenes that could be distilled into a few lines are belabored. For all the frenetic Jazz Age motion, the show feels dramatically sluggish."
Seasoned Broadway Player Marin Mazzie Is More Of A Hindrance, Say Critics.
Variety looks beyond the more headline-grabbing stars to Marin Mazzie, the Tony-nominated musical actress, who should have helped steer the TV stars but seems to have only stoked Bullets' downfall: "the face and the voice that should be driving "Bullets" belong to Marin Mazzie as Helen Sinclair [...] Surprising for this bona fide stage star, Mazzie indicates a high degree of discomfort in this diva role, which she pushes beyond satire and into caricature," says Marilyn Stasio.
"Braff [...] gets the narcissism, but his boyish appeal doesn't translate into charm," she says, adding "Yorke [...] looks like a Kewpie doll [...] but whose ear-splitting shrieks and squeals are a dead giveaway that she hasn't a clue about the inherently selfish infantilism that makes girls like Olive so devastatingly sexy to powerful old guys with pots of money."
'Bullets...' May Be Visually Stunning But Falls Short In The Script Department.
After having disgraced the cast, Variety does give a thubs up to "Susan Stroman's happy-tappy dance rhythms, the dazzling design work on everything from proscenium curtain to wigs, and a fabulous chorus line of dancing dolls, molls and gangsters." It is surmised that Bullets... "is feeble on laughs, and certain key performers don't seem comfortable navigating the earthy comic idiom of burlesque. So, let's call it close - but no cigar."
Bullets Over Broadway is at New York's St. James Theater now.