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Allen's Film for the Over-14 Crowd

April 29, 2002|Times staff writers

How's this for a mismatch: Woody Allen versus Spider-Man.

Yes, that's the bizarre scenario Hollywood is conjuring up this weekend as the chattering, bespectacled, reed-thin comedian goes head-to-head against the comic book webslinger in a titanic battle of the box office. Well, maybe not so titanic.

On paper, it's the biggest mismatch since Lyndon B. Johnson versus Barry Goldwater in 1964. "Spider-Man" opens Friday in more than 3,000 theaters; Allen's new comedy, "Hollywood Ending," premieres in about 750.

"Spider-Man" is geared to excitable 14-year-old boys. "Hollywood Ending" is geared to pseudo-intellectuals who like nothing better than to engage in a debate over the last time a Woody Allen movie was funny.

It might seem odd that DreamWorks is releasing "Hollywood Ending" the same weekend that "Spider-Man" spins his web, but the theory is that moviegoers who aren't into Saturday matinee popcorn fare should be offered something completely different.

DreamWorks plans to do something similar around the time that "Star Wars: Episode II--Attack of the Clones" comes out on May 16. Because the George Lucas film is expected to appeal mainly to boys, DreamWorks is planning to release "Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron," a film expected to appeal mainly to girls, on May 24.

As for Allen, even he would admit he's no Spider-Man. His last film, "The Curse of the Jade Scorpion," grossed a meager $7.5 million. Before that, "Small Time Crooks" took in $17.3 million. But Allen has his loyal fan base, the French are eagerly waiting for "Hollywood Endings" to open this year's Cannes Film Festival, and Allen hasn't yet completed his three-picture deal with DreamWorks.

So, sit back and try to imagine Allen swinging on a web through the concrete canyons of his beloved New York, zapping villains, mesmerizing damsels, saving people in distress. Hey, Hollywood has seen stranger sights.

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