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Tuesday, August 08, 2006


Woody Allen’s new film Scoop is not terrific, but it’s more good than bad. Like its protagonist, played by Scarlett Johansson, Scoop is charming but awkward. With rare exception, most of Allen’s films fall into two categories. There are the dramatic heavies, such as Hannah and Her Sisters, Manhattan and Matchpoint. Then there are the lighter comic films that act as narcissistic tributes to Allen himself, such as Hollywood Ending, Melinda and Melinda and Mighty Aphrodite. Scoop falls into the latter category, with a featherweight script and a lead performance by Allen. Scoop’s sense of humor is reminiscent of Allen’s early films and humorous essays. It opens with a sequence set on a barge sailing down the river Styx. From this goofy beginning launches the majority of the plot—an economic little whodunit reminiscent of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. Scarlett Johansson plays Sandra, a young journalism student vacationing in London. While on stage as a volunteer in a magic act, Sandra receives a visit from the ghost of Joe Strombel, a Peabody winning journalist who has just died of a massive embolism. He tells Sandra that he has a big scoop: the real identity of the Tarot Card Serial Killer. He thinks the killer is Peter Lyman, a wealthy aristocrat. Sandra goes on a search for the truth, but ends up falling in love with her murder suspect in the process.

The problem here is not Allen, who is actually quite funny as Sid, nor is it Johansson, who is very pretty and charming. Rather, the problem lies in the interaction between Sandra and Sidney. Johansson struggles with the banter—Diane Keaton she is not. In fact, she’s not even Mia Farrow. Rather, she sounds like a college student who has seen too many Woody Allen movies. When she and Allen are separate, however, she does just fine. The camera loves her cherubic face, and she has magical chemistry with Hugh Jackman.

All in all, I’m certainly not sorry I saw this film, especially since I saw it in the middle of one of the hottest Chicago days of the last ten years. Although it is not Allen’s best work, it is cute and entertaining—in this time of big summer blockbusters, that can be a real breath of fresh air.

The amount of money I'd pay to see this: $5


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