Plot: Larry (Woody Allen) and Carol (Diane Keaton) are married and in love, but have very different personalities. While Larry prefers to keep his head down and keep to himself, Carol loves to be in the middle of other people’s business, especially if there’s some drama involved. The two have dinner with neighbora Mr. House (Jerry Adler) and his wife, only to have the wife turn up dead the very next day, a victim of heart failure, so it has been said. But Carol finds the situation suspicious and refuses to just accept the death as natural, despite Larry’s insistence that she just let it go and mind her own business. As she launches her own investigation, will she uncover a hidden truth or just learn to listen to her husband?
Entertainment Value: A light, comic mystery that has all the usual Woody Allen tropes, Manhattan Murder Mystery is one that his fans will love and even those who don’t always appreciate his work might find a lot to like with. The humor here is brisk and often broad, but still reflects Allen’s signature style and of course, is filled with the kind of dialogue he is known for. While the mystery is a fun diversion that opens some new doors, the real core of this one is relationships and the dynamic between Allen and Keaton, who play well worn, all too familiar partners. The spark gone, the two trudge ahead and compromise to make it through, but the sudden drama lights a small fire that rekindles some of the old flame. I do think the material is a little more accessible than most of Allen’s work and that is thanks mostly to the situations allowed by the mystery in the premise. That sets up some more kinetic, involved scenes than Allen usually provides and to me, helps this movie stand out. But while it does have some fresh elements, it is an Allen film through and through, no doubt about that.
Allen casts himself in one of the leads here and to me, this is one of his funniest efforts and he really shines in the role. He plays to his strengths and is a nervous wreck with social issues, but it doesn’t feel like the same old Allen performance, thanks to some great dynamics between he and Keaton. The two had extensive experience together prior to this movie of course, but the years that had passed seem to have changed the dynamic a little and made it more fresh here. Keaton as the eager, inquisitive soul and Allen as the paranoid, always on edge presence. Some of the movies best scenes involve Allen in some kind of unexpected moment, forced to cope with a situation he never wanted to be a part of. Keaton is terrific here as well and she is able to play off Allen so well, pulling all the best out of him here. The cast also includes Alan Alda in a solid role and Angelica Huston in a memorable turn, as well as Jerry Adler, Joy Behar, Lynn Cohen, and Zach Bradd, among others. In the end, I think Manhattan Murder Mystery is a fun, brisk movie that has all you can want from a Woody Allen movie, but also seems poised to reel in new fans to his brand of cinema.
The Disc: Twilight Time presents the movie in a new HD transfer that looks terrific and offers a considerable improvement over the old DVD edition. On the extras front, we have an isolated music & effects track, as well as the film’s theatrical trailer.