Seen by Martin before? Yes
What did I expect? A sketch movie by and with Woody Allen, with varying results.
What did I get? Comedy depends on surprise, so comedy tends to date. The problem is actually worse than that — since comedy has the effect of discombobulating our pompous, complacent selves, really potent comedies often make themselves obsolete. If a comedy does its job too well, it renders widely held pieties ridiculous and unimaginable, unfortunately denying to posterity the possibility of understanding why a given gag once possessed the spring mechanism needed to achieve its effects. As a buffet of morsels, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask) hasn’t aged particularly well, but it was once a satisfying smorgasbord.
EYAWTKAS*(*BWATA) has seven sections, and while every one has a kernel of a solid idea — Woody’s fealty to purity of concept is far too developed to accept anything less — they mostly have an irritating slapdash quality, and the sum is less than its parts. We can reel off the vignettes: Woody as a Shakespearean jester, Gene Wilder in love with a sheep, the Fellini homage, Lou Jacobi as a transvestite, the TV game show parody, the mad scientist riff, and Mission Control. Every single sketch has something redeeming in it, but it mostly feels like missed opportunities to me.
Everyone loves Gene Wilder, for damned good reasons, and the single best moment in EYAWTKAS*(*BWATA) is Wilder’s exquisite reaction, lengthy, wordless, and delicate, to the news that his patient Milos has fallen in love with a sheep named Daisy. Wilder does his usual fine work in the rest of the sketch, of course, but really, it’s this early moment that showcases the singular Wilder inspiration. No other actor would be capable of anything like it.
I appreciated the offbeat, risky Italian sequence as well as burly, hirsute Jacobi’s sheer delight in mincing about like a demure housewife on an improbably crowded suburban intersection. And I have to admit that the Mission Control sequence, with Tony Randall as the commander and Burt Reynolds as a technician (and Woody as a spermatozoa reluctant to commit suicide), was pretty good. But the Shakespearean parody is full of leaden one-liners, and the mad scientist sequence, which culminates in an enormous breast roaming the countryside, is much too long.
What here smacks of 1972? The frankness of the subject matter.
IMDB score: 6.8
My score: 6
Director: Woody Allen
Writer: Woody Allen
Starring: Woody Allen, John Carradine, Lou Jacobi, Louise Lasser, Anthony Quayle, Tony Randall, Lynn Redgrave, Burt Reynolds, Gene Wilder, Jack Barry, Erin Fleming, Elaine Giftos, Toni Holt, Robert Q. Lewis, Heather MacRae, Pamela Mason, Sidney Miller, Titos Vandis, Robert Walden, Regis Philbin
IMDB synopsis: Seven segments related to one another only in that they all purport to be based on sections of the book by David Reuben. The segments range from “Do Aphrodisiacs Work?” in which a court jester gives an aphrodisiac to the Queen and is, in the end, beheaded to “What Happens During Ejaculation?” in which we watch ‘control central’ during a successful seduction.