Starring: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Tony Roberts
Director: Herbert Ross
Running Time: 85 mins
Play It Again, Sam is an Americna film about a man obsessed with Casablanca whose love life takes a hit after a divorce, but he attempts to recover with the help of his friends and the one and only Humphrey Bogart.
It may have all the hallmarks of your typical Woody Allen film – a nervous single man, endless classic Hollywood references, Diane Keaton – but there’s something about Play It Again, Sam that brings a slightly different air to proceedings. It’s a fun watch, and although it may not always succeed in providing the most emotionally riveting watch, its combination of romantic comedy with wonderfully nerdy classic cinema references makes it an absolute treat to watch.
There’s a lot to love about this movie, but I think that it’s really a film for film buffs to get excited about, simply because it’s so jam-packed with references and a clear love for the Golden Age of Hollywood that any fan of the period will be grinning from ear to ear right the way through the movie.
The film’s so full of classic movie lore that it even starts off by just playing the legendary ending of Casablanca, with Woody Allen just staring in amazement at the screen. It’s a great start to the movie, not only because it tells you immediately how nerdy it’s going to be, but is also a clever and funny introduction to our main character.
And that’s the general theme throughout the whole film. It’s different because it goes about its comedy and its drama in a clever and quirky way. Loads of Woody Allen movies feature fourth wall breaks throughout, and although Play It Again, Sam doesn’t fully break the fourth wall, it uses some brilliant fantasy elements to bring even more humour to the story.
We join our main character in the moments after his wife walks out on him and asks for a divorce. From then on, he starts hearing the voice of Humphrey Bogart – in classic Casablanca style – telling him to get back out there and be confident in finding a new relationship. That’s portrayed on screen with a shadowy Bogart standing in the corner of the room in his trench coat and hat following Allen around – often getting him into mishaps as well as pushing him to go out and meet women in that classic Bogart style.
It’s a brilliantly clever idea that’s rewarding and funny every time he pops up on screen, not to mention that Jerry Lacy, who plays Bogart, does a fantastic impression, and often really looks a whole lot like the legendary actor revived on screen.
Of course, beyond the movie lore, the film is fairly similar to a lot of Woody Allen films, with his typically nervous character talking about love and life throughout while getting into a series of mishaps. On the whole, the main bulk of the story is fairly entertaining, and watching Allen attempting to get with random women in a desperate attempt to stave off his loneliness is good fun, but the story really falls down in one respect: the emotion.
While I really enjoyed this film, it doesn’t stand up to some of the best films featuring Allen, simply because it’s not as emotionally riveting as it should be. The plot focuses as much on a blatant romantic tension between two characters as it does on the main character’s attempts to find a new partner, and although it’s clear that the film knows it’s being blatant in that regard, it still doesn’t feel right to put so much emphasis on that side of the story, and it’s really hard to become as emotionally enthralled simply because everything seems so predictable when you’re watching it.
Overall, I had a lot of fun with Play It Again, Sam. It’s an excellent comedy full of fantastically nerdy classic movie references, coupled with an interesting and entertaining story about a man struggling for love. However, it just misses out on that top bracket simply because it fails to really invigorate any emotional reaction in you, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.5.