A funny, promising setup gives way to endless shtick in Woody Allen's well-cast but slack farce. Despite its loaded subject matter -- namely, big-budget filmmaking -- this is no Player: Save for a few throwaway industry jokes, Hollywood Ending is mostly pratfalls and slapstick, centered around a neurotic conceit that even Allen, cinema's neurotic laureate, can't pull off. Once afflicted with hysterical blindness, his Val Waxman spends much of the movie fumbling and stumbling around a movie set, to rapidly diminishing comedic results. Allen has made entire films on such slight premises before -- Zelig and his chapter of New York Stories, Oedipus Wrecks, come to mind -- but those films were at once richer with subtext and more economical. Ending's climax, on the other hand, comes after at least 20 minutes of painfully broad, extraneous comedy, and hinges on a character who's barely been mentioned, let alone seen. All this notwithstanding, Allen evinces spry, witty turns from his supporting cast, including the ever-sharp Tea Leoni, a pleasantly ditzy Debra Messing, and, of all people, the ageless, orange-hued lothario George Hamilton.
by Michael Hastings review