Recent Woody Allen pictures have only been moderately enjoyable in comparison to some of the director's earlier features. Pictures like "Sleeper" and "Manhattan" were lively and engaging, with clever dialogue and great characters. It seems as if, especially in his latest picture ("Curse of the Jade Scorpion") that either Allen's dialogue lacks the snap and energy of previous efforts or other members of the cast don't seem to grasp the comedic timing.
"Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy" is one of the director's lesser works, but it still offers many of the elements that made the director's earlier works enjoyable - only in somewhat of a "lite" version. "Midsummer" is also seemingly one of the few pictures from Allen that isn't based in New York City. Even more of a departure is the fact that the film is a period piece. The film stars Allen as Andrew, a wacky inventor who is married to Adrian (Mary Steenburgen). The couple has invited two other couples (played by Julie Hagerty, Mia Farrow, Jose Ferrer and Tony Roberts).
Old feelings come up and those who are invited start to fall for one of the significant others of the other couples. There's not a great deal of plot, but the performances are enjoyable. Allen is probably playing the lightest character that he's ever played, especially in comparison to some of the more bitter and cynical characters that he's played in some of his recent pictures. The other two male leads are fairly good, but Hagerty, Steenburgen and Farrow provide enjoyable performances.
If anything, the film's pace seems rather slow at times; the movie feels like about 30 minutes longer than its 88 minute running time. Still, the light and snappy dialogue from Allen did sustain my interest and the performances are solid. Allen also has the assistance of a top-notch crew, including cinematographer Gordon Willis ("Godfather"). Certainly not one of Allen's best, but still enjoyable.
VIDEO: "Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy" is presented by MGM/UA in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. As with all of Allen's older films that are presented by MGM that I've seen, it merely looks okay - although not horrible, the film doesn't look particularly great, either. Sharpness and detail are just fair; brighter outdoor sequences begin to approach looking moderately well-defined, but dimly lit or darker sequences are murky and undefined.
The problems definitely don't end there, though. The presentation suffers from the frequent presence of print flaws. Although some are minor, there were also quite a few blemishes that caused more concern, such as larger marks and the occasional scratch. Some minor dirt and grain were also visible on occasion throughout the film. To make matters worse, some minor edge enhancement also appeared.
Colors appeared fine during most of the outdoor sequences, but looked a little smeared at times. Overall, this is a mediocre presentation from MGM. This is especially unfortunate, considering that the film's cinematographer is the great Gordon Willis ("Godfather" series).
SOUND: Let the excitement begin, another Woody Allen sound experience. As with all of Allen's films - even the latest ones, the audio is in very simple English mono. Although the newer pictures remain mono, they at least have moderately pleasing audio quality and some very slight touches of ambient sounds. Here, the sound is generally thin and bland, with the dialogue sounding somewhat clear, but not always easily understood if the actors are speaking softly.
MENUS:: Basic, non-animated menus that essentially use film-themed images and cover art.
EXTRAS:: Allen titles continue to have nothing in the way of supplemental features - this one simply has a trailer.
Final Thoughts: The movie is mildly funny, but won't go down on my list of favorite Allen pictures. MGM's DVD on the other hand, brings the expected from an Allen DVD - weak audio and next-to-no supplemental features. What's not expected - and a little dissapointing - is that the image quality is rather mediocre. Allen fans may find this enjoyable for the low price, but should go in with low expectations.