Love Woody Allen, but don't like musicals? That's pretty much my position. If you feel similarly, never fear, this isn't your normal musical. Trust Woody Allen to take a moribund form and have fun having his wicked way with it.
I recall first watching this film with some people who didn't like it all. They said it was a less than brilliant Woody Allen film with a load of schmaltzy songs sung pretty poorly by excellent actors who clearly weren't selected for vocal prowess. In some ways that's a perfectly valid and largely true analysis. But I find that, both in the context of Allen's larger oeuvre, or looked at in it's own right, Everyone Says I Love You is, whilst admittedly not Allen's greatest work, certainly a perfectly adequate (if workmanlike) confection. Above all it's simple silly fun.
But wait ... if that sounds like damning with faint praise, it's actually a fair bit more than that: it's also a celebration of that ol' razzle dazzle - not just of the 'golden age' of the American songbook, but also of the showbiz song 'n' dance routine. The dancing ghosts singing 'Enjoy Yourself' exemplify Allen's eccentric spin on the genre, and the trio of trick-or-treating kids doing a Latin American style banana song are priceless.
And, I think crucially, the fact that many of the excellent actors have merely reasonable voices gives this goofy musical a form of uniqueness and strength: I imagine practically all of us have a musical soundtrack to our lives, regardless of the 'pipes' we have or haven't got. We probably all have songs we like to sing to ourselves, songs we might even want to sing to the world in general, or perhaps someone in particular? Even if we aren't all great singers.
That kind of makes the occasionally wobbly deliveries - Allen's own is a case in point - that bit more poignant. And in this era of X-Factor and The Voice, not to mention in mainstream musicals generally, it seems a great deal of vocal talent is expended in sound that, whilst very professionally delivered, signifies less than nowt. Here the songs may frequently be silly, but they do at least say something.
Like Coppola's segment of New York Stories, there's something some viewers (me for one!) may find a bit icky about the super-rich milieu in which this film is set. Allen even suggests through his young female narrator character that the enchanted dreamlike quality of the story as a whole required that it be rendered as a musical; told straight no one would buy it! But ultimately Allen's films always have a richness of humanity, and his humour helps make it all palatable. Talking of humour, a recurrent Allen trope is to associate the American right wing with mental illness, something he riffs on here in the character of Lukas Haas, whose lapse into a phase of right wing ideology is ultimately revealed as being due to a lack of oxygen to the brain!
Alan Alda is solid in his role, whilst Goldie Hawn, Julia Roberts and Drew Barrymore are all drop dead gorgeous. Allen is his same old bad self, and there's an enjoyably silly cameo for Tim Roth, as a recently released convict Hawn takes under her liberal wing, with predictably farcical consequences. In a way this is just your typical Allen potboiler, in terms of familiar themes of shifting relationships, occasional musings on mortality, and plentiful laughs, ranging from the wittily urbane to the broad and farcical. It's just that in this instance he's chosen to treat the story as an oddball musical.
Not Allen's best by a long chalk. But don't be put off by the less than tip top vocals. Just enjoy it for what it is, an entertaining confection, laced with a nougat like selection of song, dance, wry humour, and lashings of fun.