Mighty Aphrodite

on October 27, 1995 by Shlomo Schwartzberg
   Screened at Toronto. Woody's Allen's latest comedy is an unfunny attempt at mixing Greek mythology with his usual cast of upper-middle class New Yorkers. Allen plays sportswriter Lenny Weinrib, who along with his wife (Helena Bonham Carter), an art gallery owner, adopts a baby boy. The child is smart, but Lenny becomes obsessed with discovering who his mother is. After a long search, he finds her: a porn star/prostitute (Mira Sorvino). This prompts Lenny to try to sort out her life, even as his marriage begins to crumble.
   As a modern Judy Holliday, Sorvino is priceless; sexy, salacious, innocent and oblivious, she gives a star-making performance -- in some ways similar to Jennifer Tilly's turn in Allen's "Bullets Over Broadway". That film strained for laughs, but it got some. "Mighty Aphrodite," however, stays flat, resorting to bad Mel Brooks-like humor in having a costumed Greek chorus periodically comment and offer advice to Lenny, a conceit that quickly becomes tiresome.
   As often as not Allen wastes his fine casts, and he does so again here. Sorvino aside, no one has much to do, including Michael Rapaport ("Higher Learning") as a dim boxer that Lenny sets up with the porn star and Peter Weller as an arrogant colleague of Weinrib's wife who has his eye set on her. Bonham Carter is particularly ill served by her director; she's bland and her character's relationship with Lenny isn't even faintly believable. As for Allen the actor, he pretty much goes through the motions, delivering his usual obsessive/compulsive shtick while tossing a few stale jokes. "Mighty Aphrodite" is one of Allen's least considered and most mightily forgettable films.    Starring Woody Allen, Helena Bonham Carter and Mira Sorvino. Directed and written by Woody Allen. Produced by Robert Greenhut. A Miramax release. Comedy. Rated R for language and sex-related material. Running time: 93 min.
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