Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993) (PG)













The murder mystery is a tried and true branch off of crime and mystery movies and books; and it is a remarkably well-enduring branch off at that. Leave it to the quirky Woody Allen to make a funny and remarkably well-scripted film about a nosy neighbor and a suspicious older gentleman.
Carol and Larry have a good working relationship. She goes to the hockey games with him and he goes to the plays and the operas with her. She enjoys making desserts and talking to people and he seems to like his solitude more than she.
One evening they run into their next door neighbors in the elevator. After some small talk, Larry and Carol get invited in for coffee. Their neighbors who own the apartment down the hall, the Houses, are very forward. They share everything with their newly acquainted friends, from stamp collections to hysterectomies to diets to exercise. Larry is clearly uncomfortable in their company, he doesn't like all the very quick intimacy; but Carol gets along fine with them.
The next day they come home from the opera to find that Mrs. House is dead. She died of a heart attack, the couples living in the building are all shocked. She seemed to be in such good health. Larry feels sorry for the poor man who lost his wife but Carol seems to think that something's out of place. Mr. House seems way too cheerful for her, it isn't helping that a writer friend just moved to Manhattan and he's fueling her desire to see something evil in Mr. House. Carol recruits herself to become a private detective and begins snooping in the man's life and quickly finds some inconsistencies.
A murder mystery has never been this entertaining. Woody Allen's dialogue is pure genius. The characteristic of his scripts that sets him apart as a writer is when and how the characters speak. It's not dialogue in the stage sense, it's over-talking and over-shouting and trying to make your opinion heard over everyone else's chatter. There are few moments when only one person is talking, usually they're talking over each other in a mad shout-off festival. It's very realistic, if a bit exaggerated.
But this movie has its moments of humor, mainly coming from the fast-paced dialogue. There are a few instances when Allen relies on his own physical humor to get the jokes coming across and sometimes those can be a bit too much. But his cast including regular conspirator Diane Keaton, Alan Alda, and Anjelica Huston are in top form here, making up for some of his down falls. One particularly delightful scene includes tape recorders and much chaos.
There are not many things that I would change with this movie, it's wonderfully enjoyable.
"Manhattan Murder Mystery" is not a seamless as some of Allen's other movies like "Annie Hall" and "Midnight in Paris"; but no one expected it to be. You can see vague instances that would become predecessors for Allen's thriller "Match Point". But "Match Point" is decidedly dark and and "Manhattan Murder Mystery" is much lighter and more carefree.
Diane Keaton is great, maybe even one-upping herself from her Oscar winning turn in "Annie Hall".
"Manhattan Murder Mystery" is full of laughs and (surprisingly) suspense. If you're looking for a movie that will entertain but not burden, look no further...this is your movie.


Score: 3 and a half stars out of 4

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