Sara Vilkomerson’s Guide To This Week’s Movies: Oldie but Goodie Woody

We really do like him when he’s angry! Although general wisdom might have advised against bringing the Hulk—the mild mannered scientist by day, giant green ragey monster by night—to the screen again, after the Ang Lee’s adaptation went splat in 2003, The Incredible Hulk did pretty well last weekend. The Edward Norton-starring flick made $54.5 million, edging out Kung Fu Panda and M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening. But what’s weird is that while The Happening was soundly trounced by most critics, it still managed to make $30 million and do healthy business overseas. Come on, Europe—you’re supposed to be the classy continent.

 

THIS WEEKEND BRINGS the girl-friendly Kit Kittredge: An American Girl (yes, based on the dolls), the Steve Carell remake Get Smart and Mike Myers’ The Love Guru, about a Deepak Chopra-esque self-help mogul trying to help a star hockey player whose wife left him. We can’t help but think that if it’s a comedy you’re after this weekend, you might as well stick with a classic and check out Woody Allen’s 1973 classic Sleeper, playing as part of the midnight series at the IFC Center.

The premise, based loosely on the H. G. Wells novel The Sleeper Awakes, has Woody Allen playing Miles Monroe—a health food store owner who goes to St. Vincent’s for a routine peptic ulcer operation and ends up frozen in nitrogen until 200 years later. When Mr. Monroe is awoken, the world in 2173 is unrecognizable and civilization as he (and we) know it has changed. For starters, the leader of this society is somehow only a nose, and Miles is charged with joining the underground resistance as he’s the only one around without a high-tech ID. Enter Diane Keaton, a good four years before she became immortalized as Annie Hall. She plays Luna Schlosser, a rich poet whose path crosses Miles when he poses as a robot in her house. See? Robots are clearly our future (see next week’s big Pixar release, Wall-E).

Mr. Allen has a whimsical good time imagining what the future might look like. There are vegetables of unusual size (like celery that could take your head off), orgasmatron booths (no muss, no fuss) and intoxication orbs at parties. Also, in 2173, previous no-nos, like smoking and eating red meat and other fatty foods, are thought to be good for you (if you remember how eggs were the enemy not too long ago, this doesn’t seem that farfetched). In homage to real life, Mr. Allen has Miles shown pictures of Stalin, Howard Cosell and Richard Nixon, and sneaks in some fun stuff for New Yorkers, too (Albert Shanker, anyone?). But the best part of Sleeper is the rare sight of Mr. Allen doing some Buster Keaton-like physical comedy. Which he’s really good at! What on earth could be better than watching Woody Allen fighting a monster blob of instant pudding with a broom?

Sleeper screens this Friday and Saturday at midnight at the IFC Film Center.

svilkomerson@observer.com Sara Vilkomerson’s Guide To This Week’s Movies: Oldie but Goodie Woody