Woody Allen is telling fibs. You won’t meet a tall, dark stranger in this London-set comedy of romantic errors because the titular man of mystery never appears.
Indeed, the failure to deliver on promises is indicative of this blundering London-set yarn: no big laughs, no well-drawn characters, no satisfying resolution to emotional turmoil which almost tears two marriages apart.
Ever since Allen ventured outside of his beloved New York City, his films have become rather mundane, exemplified by the tiresome Match Point and Cassandra’s Dream.
His 2006 murder mystery Scoop with Hugh Jackman and Scarlett Johansson didn’t even warrant a cinema release on this side of the Atlantic, premiering in 2009 on BBC Two.
As the veteran film-maker approaches his 76th birthday, perhaps he has finally run out of creative steam.
Or perhaps he simply needs to return to the familiar streets and avenues of the Big Apple, the scene of his greatest triumphs, Annie Hall and Manhattan.
You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger opens with a short burst of When You Wish Upon A Star, a twee prelude to the betrayals of unhappily married Alfie (Anthony Hopkins) and Helena (Gemma Jones), their daughter Sally (Naomi Watts) and her novelist husband Roy (Josh Brolin).
While Alfie has a mid-life crisis and abandons Helena for gold-digging ditz Charmaine (Lucy Punch), his wife seeks guidance from a bogus clairvoyant (Pauline Collins). ‘I’m seeing a handsome stranger coming into your life,’ she blathers. ‘You’re like two magnets.’ Helena is delighted when she meets book shop owner Jonathan (Roger Ashton-Griffiths).
He is neither tall nor dark but he is a stranger, so one out of three isn’t bad. However, he is still infatuated with his dead wife and Helena must somehow compete with the memory of the dearly departed.
‘Their often the stiffest competition... no pun intended,’ she observes.
Elsewhere, Sally contemplates a steamy affair with her boss Greg (Antonio Banderas) and is oblivious to Roy’s attempts to cure a nasty bout of writer’s block by pursuing sexy muse Dia (Freida Pinto).
You Will Meet... completes a fruitless sojourn in London for the veteran writer-director, once again squandering the talents of a top-notch cast.
It’s hard to muster sympathy for Allen’s characters, who are financially comfortable and settled yet seemingly determined to sabotage their happiness with pointless dalliances.
Watts and Brolin are lacklustre while inveterate scene-stealer Hopkins watches forlornly as Punch pinches the best lines.
A plot twist involving Roy’s poker-playing buddy Henry (Ewen Bremner) is clumsily engineered, signposting future misery for one of the characters and a roll of the eyes from us.