Picking Up The Pieces is a farcical, gross out comedy directed by Alfonso Arau. Woody Allen essentially leads a big cast in a story about a severed hand bringing miracles to a small town. Widely regarded as a disaster, it actually shows Allen having fun at least.
Woody Allen stars as Tex Cowley, a butcher who kills his cheating wife (Sharon Stone). He loses her dead hand in the process, which is found to have the ability to grant wishes. It leads to slapstick in the local town, including the priest (David Schwimmer) and the cop (Kiefer Sutherland).
The main problem here is one of tone. It’s low comedy – tit and dick jokes mixed with hammy acting. Which isn’t always bad in itself, but here it is devoid of insight or subtext.
There are a lot of famous faces here, all wasted. Schwimmer does his career no favours. He was rich and powerful at this point. What made him sign on for this film? Sutherland is probably the worse I’ve ever seen him. Fran Drescher, Joseph Gordon Levitt and all… wasted.
All that aside, Allen himself isn’t too bad. The film opens with Allen, driving, and in voice over, decent joke after decent joke. Sharon Stone, who plays Allen dead wife, looks like she is having fun and steals one scene. The two, who’ve worked together on Stardust Memories and Antz have ok chemistry.
The directing choices are constantly strange. Really extreme, cartoonish angles. Lots of characters who have nothing to do. The same unfunny jokes are told several times.
This is a bad stoner comedy. It’s aimed at adolescent boys, for a cheap, low giggle. It is almost the opposite of Allen’s core audience, and it’s a wonder why he decided to do this film. Imagine if Allen made his own film with this cast. Imagine watching this cast, together or apart, in any other film.
Interestingly enough, this film came out just as Allen released a series of critically savaged, light comedies – Small Time Crooks, The Curse Of the Jade Scorpion and so on. These were not good years for Allen.
In the end it’s not a zero out of ten, so bad it’s good type thing. It’s average bad, a two out of ten. Unremarkable, missable and forgettable.
Full cast: Woody Allen, David Schwimmer, Maria Grazia Cucinotta, Kiefer Sutherland, Cheech Marin, Elliott Gould, Fran Drescher, Sharon Stone, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Andy Dick, Eddie Griffin, Alfonso Arau