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1.0 out of 5 stars Stupidity is not funny, Aug. 16 2002
This review is from: Picking Up the Pieces [Import] (DVD)
Like some of the other reviewers, I picked up this movie because of the cast, particularly Woody Allen. The one good thing about it is that it wasn't very long, and that I didn't buy it, but rent it cheaply from my local library. Everything else about it is bad.
The premise is not bad as far as it goes. Tex, a NY butcher (hopefully a kosher/halal one?) living in Texas marries a floozy who cheats on him at every turn. He kills her, dismembers her and drives over to the New Mexico town of El Niño to bury her corpse. In the way, he loses a hand. A blind woman stumbles over the hand and regains her vision. The hand is delivered to the local church where, in spite of the opposition of the priest, it is displayed as the Virgin's hand. It quickly confirms this reputation and transform's the windswept town into a tourist mecca. One of the dead woman's lovers, an irritating Texas ranger, find out about the murder an tries to arrest Tex and confiscate the missing hand. The local townspeople rebel, kill the ranger, release Tex, and keep the hand. A parallel plot concerns the priest who has lost his faith and is in love with one of the local hookers. The hooker first attempts to become celibate and then marries the priest.
So what's wrong with this picture? Virtually everything. It's not being away from New York that has killed Woody Allen's jokes, but the fact that he is no longe allowed to take center stage or to roam freely across his multiple obsessions. Sharon Stone, as his adulterous wife and murder victim, must have been so stricken by the mediocre result that her name has been stricken from the marquee: one looks in vain for her name as the credits pass by (at the movie's end, rather than the beginning, which was surely no accident). David Schwimmer is utterly unrealistic as a priest, instead playing again the bumbling and incoherent character that made him rich at "Friends". Maria Grazia Cucinotta, as the obligatory hooker with a heart of gold is OK, although one wonders why she should fall in love with such a bland character as Schwimmer's priest. Of course it's possible (beautiful women are notorious for their rotten taste in partners) but it doesn't make for a funny movie. Kiefer Sutherland, as the Texas ranger, is even good rather than OK, since he conveys a sense of menace and aggression whenever he appears on the screen. Contrary to the rest of the cast, he stands for something, and has a personality, a rare commodity in this movie. Three actors who play a priest, a nun and a Franciscan monk on a mission from the archbishop to authenticate the supposed holy relic are ludicrous rather than funny. Stupidity is not funny. Clumsiness may be funny (witness Laurel and Hardy), but only when redeemed by some endearing trait (such as friendship or loyalty). These characters are cyphers. They are nothing more than authority figures to mock, and not even that at times.
Other reviewers have commented on the film's disrespect for religion and priesthood. That's not the problem. Humour, like love, forgives all. The movie just isn't funny, and so its vulgarity and crudeness are unjustified. With no less than 3 major actors (Allen, Stone and Sutherland) and a great or at least distinguished support cast (Cucinotta, Schwimmer, Drescher, to name a few) it is much less than the sum of its parts. Vulgarity and lewdness are not funny by themselves, but only as part of a reasonable portrayal of human foibles. In this movie genitalia, breasts, profanity and lewdness are in fact substitutes for a plot or for well-rendered characters. This sort of thing may work (more or less) in "gross-out" films intended for the 13-year old set (such as "American Pie", "Dumb and Dumber" or the "Scary Movie" series) but it doesn't in a movie intended for adults. You'd have more fun drinking yourself blind while reading P.J. O'Rourke.
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Location: Bogotá, Colombia

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