January 11, 1991 at 05:00 AM EST

Alice, a very minor Woody Allen movie — watchable and sometimes funny, but ever so thin. (Allen is starting to treat thinness as a higher virtue.) Mia Farrow plays Alice, an upper-crust Manhattanite who spends her days shopping at the ritziest stores in town, getting manicured, and gossiping with her bored socialite friends. Yet she doesn’t quite belong among them. A good Catholic, she has been married to her rich, dull, and — unbeknownst to her — philandering husband (William Hurt) for almost 16 years. She’s so insulated, such a mousy, naive goody-two-shoes, that she barely takes any sinful pleasure in her decadent-consumerist life-style. All of this changes when she goes to see the mysterious Dr. Yang (Keye Luke), a kind of Zen magician who hypnotizes her and uncovers her true romantic nature. Thanks to Yang’s mystical herbs, she can even turn invisible. When she meets a sexy, gentle, divorced man (Joe Mantegna) at the posh private school both their children attend, she fantasizes about having an affair with him, and soon her fantasy is becoming reality. ”Alice” is a light-comic gloss on Fellini’s 1965 daydreaming-housewife movie, Juliet of the Spirits. The movie is inventive and full of wry casting cameos (actors as diverse as Alec Baldwin, Judy Davis, and Bernadette Peters keep popping up). Yet it doesn’t have the devilish, rambunctious spirit that made Allen’s The Purple Rose of Cairo a minor gem. If anything, Farrow seems to be doing an impression of Woody here, and her high-pitched manic hesitancy wears out its welcome before the picture is over. B

106 minutes
Keye Luke,
Joe Mantegna
Orion Pictures
Complete Coverage

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