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EVERYONE SAYS I LOVE YOU (director/writer: Woody Allen; cinematographer: Carlo DiPalma; editor: Susan E. Morse; music: Dick Hyman; cast: Edward Norton (Holden Spence), Goldie Hawn (Steffi Dandridge), Woody Allen (Joe Berlin), Alan Alda (Bob Dandridge), Natalie Portman (Laura Dandridge), Gaby Hoffman (Lane Dandridge), Drew Barrymore (Skylar Dandridge), Natasha Lyonne (DJ Berlin), Lukas Haas (Scott Dandridge), Julia Roberts (Von Sidell), Tim Roth (Charles Ferry), Andrea Piedimonte (Alberto), Billy Crudup (Ken), Trude Klein (Frieda), David Ogden Stiers (Arnold Spence), Robert Knepper (Greg Sidell), Patrick Cranshaw (Grandpa); Runtime: 97; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Robert Greenhut; Buena Vista Home Entertainment; 1996)
“Slight but pleasing middlebrow fare (much like a Bob Hope musical comedy).”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Woody Allen (“Hannah and her Sisters”/”Mighty Aphrodite”) brings back the lighthearted 1930’s musical romantic comedy in this fluffy romp that moves spryly from Manhattan’s Upper East Side to Venice and finally to Paris. The slight plot hangs on the impending wedding of two young lovers, Holden (Edward Norton) and Skylar (Drew Barrymore), as it traces an affluent extended family of NYC elites and their romantic trials; it comes with a female teenager narrator, Natasha Lyonne, who plays DJ, the daughter of divorced couple Steffi Dandridge (Goldie Hawn) and Joe Berlin (Woody Allen). It should be noted that both Holden and DJ are taken from Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. During the course of the film DJ goes through three lovers she falls head and heels over. One of them is a gondolier in Venice, who is also a poet, which brings about this retort from Allen “Oh, yeah, let me tell you what rhymes with gondolier — “no lira.” Socialite Steffi has since married the more stable Bob Dandridge (Alan Alda), and DJ has half-sisters Skylar, Laura (Natalie Portman) and Lane (Gaby Hoffman) and a straight-arrow conservative half-brother Scott (Lukas Haas). Its theme is taken from the musical number that has a body coming out of the coffin to sing “Enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think.” For some strange reason Allen cast actors not known for their musical talent and it somehow works better than expected; in the end the only one dubbed is Barrymore.

It smashingly opens in the springtime with young bouncy junior attorney Holden and his boss’s daughter Skylar strolling around a fountain in Central Park and he starts serenading her with the old-fashioned song “Just You, Just Me.” The singing is merely bearable but it goes over with a bang because it’s so unexpected, energetic and charming.

Limousine liberal do-gooder Steffi at a house dinner party for family and friends brings home her latest project in her work on prison reform, roughneck ex-con Charles (Tim Roth). He acts crude at the gathering and steals Skylar from Holden by singing to her ”If I Had You.” She eventually returns to her senses and doesn’t break her engagement. Steffi’s idea of reform goes like this: ”I say give them an opportunity to participate in decorating their own cells!”

Woody plays his familiar sourpuss neurotic role as a wisecracking American writer living in Paris with love problems and belts out in a whisper a sad song “I’m Through With Love.” In Venice, his daughter DJ feels sorry for him and gives him the lowdown on how to hook the beautiful married American art historian Von (Julia Roberts) from info she stole from Von’s NYC therapist. He succeeds in an underhanded way expressing a love for all the artists she cherishes but soon Von, who is half Woody’s age, returns to her hunky husband declaring she got over being with the perfect man (which I guess is supposed to be funny) and now can put up with her hubby’s flaws. This interlude was so smarmy, half-heartedly acted and foolishly conceived, that it brought the film down and made one question what the hell Woody was saying about love.

The music is the thing here; the story alone couldn’t make it. It’s a love story that doesn’t have the slightest idea what love is, relating it to consumerism, money, lust and an escape from reality. Fortunately, everything is so well choreographed, photographed and orchestrated, and the amateurish musical performers are so audaciously guileless and highly entertaining that it makes for slight but pleasing middlebrow fare (much like a Bob Hope musical comedy).

The film has a few memorable numbers such as the one at the end where Goldie sings and dances with Allen on the banks of the Seine and she flies like Peter Pan over the water. Other worthy numbers include the Halloween singing, trick-or-treating Chiquita Banana; the “Makin’ Whoopie” number inside a hospital corridor; the Christmas Eve in Paris dancing French Grouchos; the number that has the stuffy Harry Winston salespeople come out from behind their jewelry counters to join Holden in singing a chorus of “My Baby Just Cares for Me;” and the death number of “Enjoy Yourself (It’s Later Than You Think)” at the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Chapel on NYC’s Madison Avenue.

REVIEWED ON 11/24/2006 GRADE: B-

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”