Manhattan Murder Mystery Reviews
On rewatch this is bloody good film.
Trouble is, Carol is of the first category, Larry of the second. She can't rest until she really knows what's going on; Larry, however, would rather go to work, come home for dinner at 5:00, stay up until the late hours of the evening to catch a forgotten classic on the classic movie channel, and continue the same routine for the rest of his life, spicing it up in safe ways when the occasion arises. But Carol has a mind of her own, and Larry, being played by Woody Allen (in which case meaning Allen is basically playing himself), is much too weak of a figure to stop her Nancy Drew madness.
Who can blame her? Here's the situation: as the film opens, Larry and Carol bump into their aging neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. House (Jerry Adler and Lynn Cohen), who proceed to casually invite them up for coffee. The two are dull, but sweet: reaching old age, they have already purchased twin headstones, filling their days with blissful uneventfulness and hobbies like stamp collecting. Larry finds them pleasantly boring; the invitation was polite, sure, but neighbors are meant to be neighbors, not friends. Yet just as he's stating this sentiment to the kooky Carol, the unexpected happens with brute force. The following day, Mrs. House is announced dead. She had a heart condition.
Larry is surprised but figures it to be another tragedy in the cruel game of life; Carol, on the other hand, is suspicious. Mrs. House never mentioned having a heart condition (strange considering she felt the need to discuss her hysterectomy only minutes into conversation). Mr. House must have murdered her. So she decides to do a little investigating herself, and, as it turns out, something is amiss. One point Carol, zero points Larry.
These days, Woody Allen seems to travel back and forth between meaningful work and more passable fare. Critics flock to his old-age unevenness like a group of hungry vultures, but I've always enjoyed what he has to offer. When he's taking a break from changing the lives of his audience and having fun for a change, it's infectious (most of the time). "Manhattan Murder Mystery" is his finest, dare I say it, "lightweight" project. I could be biased, considering I watched the majority of his most famous films when I was too young to really understand their meaning, but over the years, "Manhattan Murder Mystery" has always stuck with me the most. Is it the contagiously humorous repartee between Allen and Keaton (in their first film together since 1979's "Manhattan"), the obvious homages to film noir (you can't beat "The Lady from Shanghai" playfulness of the ending) and Agatha Christie, the likable supporting performances from Alan Alda (the likable best friend type) and Anjelica Huston (the superiorly cool female figure), the New York setting? I can hardly decide, but Allen's deft combination of whodunit antics and absolutely hilarious exchanges makes every single thing about "Manhattan Murder Mystery" an unequivocal delight. And because he's realistic, of course he slides marital trouble and middle-aged discontent into the mix; it's the only way such an exciting story could exist in real life!
With a luminous Keaton by his side, a truckload of his best lines ("Claustrophobia and a dead body - this is a neurotic's jackpot!"; "I can't listen to that much Wagner. I start to get the urge to conquer Poland."), and an unabashed sense of fun, "Manhattan Murder Mystery" is Allen at his best: confident, sensible, engaging, and uproarious.