As the multiplexes ready themselves for the summer’s onslaught of sequels, prequels, and spinoffs, Woody Allen jumps in with what could be the season’s lamest rehash of past glories. Death, hypochondria, LA bashing — they all get a perfunctory, Woody-lite treatment in Hollywood Ending. Continuing in the not-so-glorious tradition of The Curse of the Jade Scorpion, Woody casts himself as a past-his-prime addled and kind of cuddly old codger who’s pitted against a tough-as-nails and, need we say it, much younger woman.
Allen’s Val Waxman is a once-great director now reduced to directing commercials in Canada. His nemesis and ex-wife, Ellie (Téa Leoni), is now a big-shot Hollywood producer who decides to give Val a chance at directing a big-budget film about New York. Complicating matters is Ellie’s impending marriage to the head of the film’s production company, the slick Hal (Treat Williams). It’s all too much for the Woodman to take, and the day before shooting begins, he comes down with psychosomatic blindness. Knowing this is his last chance, he decides to pretend he’s all right and direct the picture, using the translator for his Chinese cameraman as his eyes.
Hilarity should ensue, but instead we spend a lot of time just watching Woody do blind shtick — staring off into nowhere, bumping into things. The movie Val is myopically making is, we’re told, not turning out too well, but we never see any clips of it — clips that could have been funny. There is a nice sweetness to Hollywood Ending, but a Woody Allen film like this, as he’d be the first to admit, depends on the jokes. It’s off to a bad start with Val, in a Canadian blizzard, saying, "You don’t need Oscars here — you need antlers," and it doesn’t get much better. Perhaps if Allen took a little more time making his movies, or had someone, God forbid, telling him what works and what doesn’t, we’d see a return to form. But as Val says of his own films, Woody makes his pictures for himself. And though Allen got his real-life Hollywood ending a few months ago with a standing O at the Oscars, he’ll probably keep tacking on disappointing epilogues like this film.