NEW YORK – Woody Allen's Hollywood Ending could be the most aptly named film in recent memory.
The aging auteur's career has gone stale over the last decade. But like the Energizer Bunny, the New York filmmaker keeps on going.
The question is, will his latest film help win back audiences that abandoned him after an ugly personal scandal and a string of mediocre films or will this be his own Hollywood ending?
"It would look as if he's past his prime, but I would not count Woody Allen out — ever," said Foster Hirsch, author of Love, Sex, Death and the Meaning of Life: The Films of Woody Allen. "His films have had a diminishing market for quite a while. But there will always be enough of an audience for his work."
The reviews of Hollywood Ending have been mixed, but overall critics say Allen has recaptured some of the humor and timing he's known for.
"It's a refreshing revival," said New York Observer film critic Andrew Sarris. "Comedians are particularly vulnerable, they have their shtick and after a while you get tired of it, but to me it's amazing that he's been going this long, and he's done very well considering."
Hirsch agrees that Hollywood Ending helps make amends for some of Allen's recent disappointments like Celebrity.
"I keep looking for a film that has the impact of Hannah and Her Sisters or Crimes and Misdemeanors, and there hasn't been one," Hirsch said. "Curse of the Jade Scorpion was terrible. Helen Hunt is the most charmless person on the face of the planet. But the good news about Hollywood Ending is it's charming."
Allen has always appealed to an urban crowd, while never tapping into mainstream America. The closest he came to winning over a mass audience was with Annie Hall, which took home the best picture Academy Award in 1977.
But even Allen's more fervent fans could not get past the scandal in which he left his long-term leading lady, Mia Farrow, for his young step-daughter Soon-Yi Previn.
"A lot of people have never forgiven Woody Allen for breaking the rules, for going after his adopted step-daughter and betraying his significant other, especially since many of his characters take a moralistic stance about love and betrayal," Sarris said.
And many people, no matter what he does, will steer clear of Allen's work, said Hirsch.
"We found out things about him we didn't need to know and didn't want to know, and we were very disappointed with him," Hirsch said. "There are some people who will never forgive him, they really won't."
But most Allen observers agree that, at 66, he is suddenly conscious of his legacy, and is making a concerted effort to repair his tarnished image.
His appearance at this year's Oscars was seen as a goodwill effort to rejoin the Hollywood community.
"I think after the scandal, which hurt him a lot, that he has been very aware that he has to do some image reconstruction," Hirsch said. "And the Academy Awards was the major point in that rebuilding process."
Allen has also agreed to participate in an in-depth retrospective of his films for Turner Classic Movies called Woody Allen: A Life in Film, to be broadcast May 4.
"I think at 66, with a body of work behind him, that's one of the reasons he did this documentary, he wants people to put his work in some historical significance," said the documentary's director Richard Schickel.
And Schickel said now is the time to look back at Allen's career as a whole, rather than focusing on individual failures or bright spots.
"We take Woody kind of casually, nevertheless when you watch those movies together, it is awesome, just awesome, the range of ideas he's explored."
And critics say audiences should never underestimate Allen.
"He's always bounced back," Sarris said. "I can't think of many people who have had such a sustained career."
Although Hollywood Ending might help repair Allen's image, it won't put him on the Hollywood A-list, said Hirsch. However, the prolific filmmaker will undoubtedly keep on creating.
"He will continue to make films until the day after he dies," Hirsch said. "He'll never stop."