In 1989, Woody Allen delivered one of his all-time best films, "Crimes and Misdemeanors". The following year, his next film paled badly by comparison.
ALICE stars Mia Farrow as a pampered, wealthy, kept & bored Manhattan wife. Her husband Doug (William Hurt) suggests that maybe she sell sweaters at a friend's upscale boutique. "You know sweaters", he implores.
But Alice has decided she wants to be a writer. She thinks she may want to have an affair with a Dad she meets dropping off her children at their posh nursery. Joe Mantegna is the Dad, a jazz musician drawn to Alice.
Woody digs a little too deep for the story line to propel Alice forward. She visits a Chinatown medicine shop, where an ancient alchemist (Keye Luke of "Kung Fu" fame in his final role) gives her magic herbs.
These aren't just any herbs. They make her invisible so she can hear what her stuffy friends are really saying about her. They allow her to see the ghost of her first true love (Alec Baldwin) who takes her on a hand-held flight over NYC that seems awfully similar to Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder's flight over the Big Apple in "Superman".
Woody seems like he's really straining from beginning to end. The Jazz references seem forced, Alice's allegiance to Mother Teresa is cumbersome and I couldn't tell if Woody was secretly hating these pampered, wealthy New Yorkers or finding some sort of comfort in their pompous lives.
With a cast this talented, it's not a disaster. Judy Davis, Bernadette Peters, Julie Kavner, Blythe Danner, Gwen Verdon, Bob Balaban and Judith Ivey all cross Alice's path.
Mia Farrow has a couple great moments, especially when she uses a potion to verbally seduce Joe. She drops her voice into Kathleen Turner territory, its hilarious. She also shows some chops in her dramatic scenes confronting her husband.
But overall, its too long, strangely disconnected and Alice isn't interesting enough to carry a film.
Allen proved in "Crimes and Misdemeanors" that he can deliver tense drama, dark humor and a suspenseful thriller in one package. It's one of my all time favorite Allen films.
Perhaps that's why this follow up is so empty by comparison. One of my least favorite Woody Allen works, it gets a C-.