Manhattan Murder Mystery is not a standout in Woody Allen's prolific oeuvre, but it blends well with his perennial goals, exploring the neurotic foibles of aging New Yorkers amidst a plot that's slightly chaotic and ludicrous. Diane Keaton gives the most winning performance as a bored upper middle-class woman who is both shocked and invigorated by her own obsessive curiosity. As she haphazardly embarks on risky detective missions inside her neighbor's home, Allen is left pleading and tagging behind, nearly fainting from nervousness. It's a hilarious setup that gets deliciously exacerbated by the encouragement of Alan Alda and Angelica Huston, both of whom are perfectly suited to Allen's talky dialogue. Never one to fully buy a traditional mystery, Allen incorporates this wariness into the jokes, writing for himself so many wisecracks about what's supposed to happen next that it's all the funnier when they actually do. Even though his dialogue is stylized according to his own distinct patterns, it remains natural enough that Allen pulls off the idea that these are real people embroiled in surreal events. His handheld camera creates a realistic, documentary-style feel, further supporting the effort. It all makes for a darn fun movie, continuing to prove the superiority of even Allen's lesser-known films.
by Derek Armstrong review