Next to Val Waxman, the cripplingly neurotic New York filmmaker played by Woody Allen in his new comedy, "Hollywood Ending," most of Allen's kvetchy, self-doubting heroes look like models of mental health. It's no surprise his wife, Ellie (Tea Leoni), left him: Val is such a hypochondriac he worries about elm blight. Now, thanks to his ex-wife's close relationship with a studio chief (Treat Williams), the washed-up director gets a comeback chance. But just as he's going into production on a Hollywood feature, he goes psychosomatically blind. Oops.
Alas, once it becomes clear that this farfetched joke--the director is blind!--is "Hollywood Ending's" central conceit, Allen's promising satire starts to go awry. Val's laborious attempts to keep his secret--only his agent (Mark Rydell) and his Chinese cinematographer's translator (Barney Cheng) know the truth--play out with-out a shred of credibility, even by farcical standards. That's not the only problem. You know a romantic comedy is in trouble when you root for the hero not to get the girl. What does the bright Ellie--played by Leoni with the crisp vibrancy of a good Chardonnay--see in the tedious, petulant Val? You find yourself thinking the unthinkable--that she's better off in the arms of the philistine, villainous studio chief.Hollywood EndingDreamWorks