It's a contemporary story about -- surprise -- a neurotic New Yorker (Allen) and his dysfunctional relationships and search for happiness. Allen's character, Lenny, is a sports writer this time. He's married to Amanda (Helena Bonham Carter), with whom he rather suddenly adopts a child. When marriage with Amanda starts to fizzle and their new son Max begins to shine, Lenny begins to wonder if Max's real mother might just be the girl for him. Come to find out, mom is really prostitute/porn actress Linda (Mira Sorvino), and Allen's paranoia and angst really begin to shine.
As you can imagine, this scenario makes for some perfect comic opportunities. Unfortunately, the time needed to set this up is extreme, as is the time needed to resolve everything at the end. The result is a few good bits of comedy right in the middle of the movie, when Lenny is first getting to know Linda. The rest of it, about Amanda's wandering eye and Lenny's attempt to set Linda up with a boxer (Michael Rapaport), is simply limp.
The worst of all is Allen's decision to use an inexplicable "chorus," in the style of an old Greek tragedy, in lieu of his own narration. So between scenes of downtown Manhattan, we switch to an ancient stone stage, where 20 guys in period costume wax poetic about Lenny's dilemma. It's cute, but it never really works. Allen is usually skilled at pulling off this kind of out-of-place addition (as in Alice, The Purple Rose of Cairo, and others), but this time it's just too much and too silly.
Mira Sorvino's Linda is the one to watch, pulling off the "ditzy blonde" more memorably than anyone else has in recent years. Allen's acting is good, but he seems a bit tired, and most of the additional supporting cast is solid. Helena Bonham Carter turned out to be an enormous casting mistake, completely lacking credibility as a New York high society type, mainly because she keeps slipping in and out of her naturally thick British accent. It's almost painful to listen to her.
The real disappointment here is that Mighty Aphrodite lacks the rich subtlety of Allen's previous work. You can watch Annie Hall a hundred times and catch something new with each viewing. Mighty Aphrodite beats its messages over your head with a stick. Like the chorus directly states at the end: "Isn't life ironic?" Well, yeah. But there are much better ways to tell us about it.
Run time: 95 mins
In Theaters: Thursday 11th January 1996
Box Office Worldwide: $26M
Production compaines: Miramax Films
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 77%
Fresh: 27 Rotten: 8
IMDB: 7.1 / 10
Director: Woody Allen
Producer: Robert Greenhut
Screenwriter: Woody Allen
Starring: Woody Allen as Lenny, Mira Sorvino as Linda Ash, Helena Bonham Carter as Amanda, F. Murray Abraham as Chorleiter, Donald Symington as Amanda's Father, Claire Bloom as Amanda's Mother, Olympia Dukakis as Jocasta, Michael Rapaport as Kevin, David Ogden Stiers as Laius, Jack Warden as Tiresias, Peter Weller as Jerry Bender, Danielle Ferland as Cassandra
Also starring: Robert Greenhut
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