People who complain that Woody Allen doesn’t make the sorts of movies he used to may stop their grousing after watching “Ira and Abby,” which Jennifer Westfeldt wrote and stars in with Chris Messina. It’s a close copy of the sort of picture Allen regularly offered in earlier days, and it’s remarkably tiresome. It should serve as a good antidote for nostalgia about Woody’s “funny movies.”
The set-up has hopeless New York hyper-neurotic Ira Black (Messina), a psychology grad student who’s been in therapy himself for twelve years, fall for free-spirited Abby (Westfeldt) when he impulsively decides to join a health club when his shrink abruptly cancels their patient-doctor relationship. He quickly breaks up with his long-time girlfriend (Maddie Corman), much to the dismay of his parents (Judith Light and Robert Klein), both counselors themselves, and before long he and Abby are hitched—delighting her mom and dad (Frances Conroy and Fee Willard), who are a free-wheeling as his parents are not.
From here the movie descends into the territory of quirky squabbles. Ira and Abby don’t prove completely compatible, especially when he goes ballistic over the fact that she didn’t tell him she’d been married before. She, on the other hand, mistakenly believes that he’s gotten together with his former girlfriend. They actually split at one point. But theirs isn’t the only relationship that comes under stress. Abby’s dad and Ira’s mom have a fling that threatens the older generation, too. And the script also wants to play with the notion of too many shrinks by introducing a comic trio of varied counselors (Jason Alexander, Chris Parnell and Darrell Hammond) who prove as much hindrance as help.
“Ira and Abby” offers some smiles and rueful insights about the vicissitudes of love, but its almost slavish imitation of the Woody Allen formula ultimately makes it seem stale. Messina, who looks rather like a bearded Jon Cryer, isn’t as frail and wimpy as Woody, but his nervous ticks are equally strong, and Westfeldt’s Abby has the spacey quality of the young Diane Keaton. On the other hand, though neither Conroy nor Light offers much relief under Robert Cary’s pedestrian direction, Klein delivers his lines with practiced sharpness, and the goofy Willard is always good for a few laughs.
Technically decent if not outstanding, the picture winds up feeling like a mediocre homage to a type of early Woody Allen picture that’s probably best left uncopied.