review for Scenes from a Mall on AllMovie

Scenes from a Mall (1990)
by Craig Butler review

Scenes From a Mall is a painfully unfunny film for a comedy, especially one starring Bette Midler and Woody Allen. It's a remarkably unromantic film for a romance. It's surprisingly shallow for a character study or for a social study. And it's irritatingly fuzzy and unfocused for a satire. Mall is a low point in director/writer Paul Mazursky's variable career, a slow-paced, difficult-to-sit-through film that seems to have gone straight from conception to filming without bothering to stop to get together a coherent script. Mall feels improvised, not in the good "natural" sense, but in the "quick, let's throw something together and pray to God it works" sense. The screenplay is essentially a series of variations on a theme, but they vary too little and the theme is never developed. And there is simply no truth to the film, either in the surface psychology of the characters or in the artificial way in which the film confines itself to its setting, when in reality one or both of the characters would leave halfway through the movie. Given their one-dimensional characters, there's little that the stars can do. Midler comes off relatively unscathed, but Allen is a disaster from start to finish, never believable as either a denizen of Los Angeles or as a high-powered lawyer, and his tics and mannerisms become rapidly annoying. There are a few -- a very few -- amusing moments in Mall, but overall it's a misfire.