Play It Again, Sam (1972) (PG)

Woody Allen loves playing neurotic characters. Not only does he love playing them, but before he plays them he has to create them and write them—which he does time and time again. Allen seems to enjoy writing somewhat self-confessing characters, there is a sense of realism to his players.
In "Manhattan" Allen played a character that professed (I believe it was just once in the entire film) to being a neurotic. But in "Play It Again, Sam" there is no mistaking that Allen, playing Allan, has invented one of his more obsessive characters.
Allan, another reason to assume that this character is autobiographical is simple because of the name, is a film critic whose wife has just left him. He spirals into an emotional wreck and soon seeks the help of his friends Linda and Dick, a married couple.
Dick and Linda see it as their mission to restore Allan to the world of dating and they set up blind date after meeting after drinks but still nothing happens. Allan is just too weird to let any woman be interested in him, that and he's still not over his wife leaving him.
Allan is obsessed with Humphrey Bogart, who makes appearances in the film as a manifestation of Allan's madness. Bogart (played by Jerry Lacy) gives Allan good/bad advice on how to become a man and attract women.
But things start to get out of hand when Allan realizes that his affections are starting to drift in an area that they shouldn't be—a forbidden relationship!
"Play It Again, Sam" takes many of its jokes from "Casablanca" and the fact that Allan is a Bogart fanatic. But much more than just nostalgia shticks is slapstick comedy and some fantastic puns and one-liners. One of my personal favorites comes when Allan buys Linda a present for her birthday and she asks how he remembered the day:
"Well, you mentioned the date and I remembered because it's the same day my mother had her hysterectomy."
I must admit that I laughed out loud at that.
"Play It Again, Sam" is adult and childish in the same way. Allan is so awkward with women that he's borderline naive with them. In one ear he has Bogart whispering words of bourbon and whiskey and in the other ear he hears the logic behind sobriety.
Allan is not crazy, at least the movie certainly doesn't portray him that way. He's challenged in his love life; but not insane.
The physical comedy of "Play It Again, Sam" is the more enjoyable parts. Some jokes don't work at all and some, like the aforementioned line, sneak up on you.
This is one of Allen's first movies, and you can see the works that it would later become—"Midnight in Paris" and, in particularly "Annie Hall".
Allen leads as Allan, followed by regular collaborators Tony Roberts as Dick and Diane Keaton as Linda.
"Play It Again, Sam" is a rarity because Allen didn't direct the picture as he does with most of his works. Instead Herbert Ross (most known for the tear-jerker "Steel Magnolias") directed this quirky picture.
It's not Allen's best work, but it is funny, quick, and surprisingly touching.

Score: 3 out of 4 stars

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