Courtesy Photo
** 113 minutes | Rated: R
Opened: Friday, November 20, 1998
Written & directed by Woody Allen

Starring Kenneth Branagh, Judy Davis, Charlize Theorn, Winona Ryder, Joe Mantegna, Leonardo DiCaprio, Gretchen Mol, Bebe Neuwirth, Hank Azaria, Melanie Griffith, Famke Janssen & Michael Lerner


Woody's movies always translate well to video, although in the comfort of your favorite easy chair this one might just put you to sleep.

   VIDEO RELEASE: 8/10/99

Stale 'Celebrity' mocks fame with jokes only a tabloid victim could love

By Rob Blackwelder

With Kenneth Branagh practically channeling Woody Allen in the director's screen absence, "Celebrity" quickly begins to feel like a joke is being played on the audience.

Ostensibly a parody of fame in the era of "Hard Copy" and "Entertainment Tonight," Allen's latest dry comedy is, ironically, a considerable bore. With an all-star cast revolving around Branagh's insecure, neurotic, divorcee -- a journalist who, in between writing fluffy celeb profiles, somehow bags the likes of Charlize Theron ("The Devil's Advocate"), Famke Janssen (a former Bond girl) and Winona Ryder -- "Celebrity" largely fails to move beyond stale, recycled Woody fare.

Allen uses the decadence of the entertainment industry as an excuse to experiment with new taboos (lesbian chic, banana blow-jobs) and he serves up a smattering of ironic laughs (a "Birth of a Nation" remake with an all-black cast?), but this movie barely even has a plot. It's mostly just prosaic musings on the human condition as it relates to fame, a subject about which one would think Allen, of all people, would have something more interesting to say.

Plastic surgeon gags and caricatures of TV attack journalists are bandied about as if "Married, With Children" and a dozen other TV shows and movies hadn't covered the same territory ad nauseam over the last 10 years. Stock mid-life crises are whipped for tired laughter and the self-important Hollywood types are uncreatively mocked.

By the time Branagh has nervously turned down oral sex from an interviewee movie star (played by Melanie Griffith) and blown his chance to bed Theron, an insatiable supermodel, his incessant Woodyisms have become insufferable and it's clear "Celebrity" isn't going to be any more than a parade of occasionally (very occasionally) smart vignettes.

Certain actors bring the film moments of obliging, self-depreciating humor (Leonardo DiCaprio as a hotel-trashing bad boy actor) but others are reduced to lowbrow embarrassment (Judy Davis is the one stuck with the banana gag, if you'll pardon the pun), and still the movie lacks direction.

Surprisingly lackluster, "Celebrity" feels like it was put together on an assembly line, and most of the cavalcade of stars sleepwalk through their roles.

In the fireworks show that is Woody Allen's career, this is one of his loudest duds.

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