Manhattan Murder Mystery takes the standard Allen formula and adds a murder plot that, interestingly enough, doesn’t become the central narrative until halfway into the film. In fact, that aspect of the movie is overshadowed by Allen’s relationship drama, which is more or else the same thing he’s done in previous (and following) films. It’s because of that familiarity where it becomes a bit hard to embrace Manhattan Murder Mystery, largely because Allen has (a) already done this and (b) has done this better.
Still, there are aspects that I found uniquely enjoyable about the film. In the beginning of the closing act, there’s a lingering sense of jealousy between the central protagonists that was disappointingly absent throughout most of the picture. Carol Lipton (Diane Keaton) distances herself from her husband Larry Lipton (Woody Allen) and grows fond of their friend Ted (Alan Alda). Ted entertains Carol’s ideas that a murderer could live next door moreso than Larry, therefore the couple’s ability to get along. Ted and Carol’s relationship develops while Larry sits on the sidelines. Only later are we introduced to a character that both Ted and Larry gush over, adding a dynamic that was sorely needed in the film’s relationship drama.
Allen does a noble job of blending a variety of genres together, and though it ultimately falls flat, there are glimmers of excellence in his failure.