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SCOOP(director/writer: Woody Allen; cinematographer: Remi Adefarasin; editor: Alisa Lepselter; cast: Woody Allen (Sid Waterman/Splendini), Hugh Jackman (Peter Lyman), Scarlett Johansson (Sondra Pransky), Ian McShane (Joe Strombel), Fenella Woolgar (Jane Cook), Julian Glover (Lord Lyman), Romola Garai (Vivian); Runtime: 95; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Letty Aronson/Gareth Wiley; Focus Features; 2006-UK/USA)
“… more silly than funny.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Woody Allen (“Small Time Crooks”/”Manhattan Murder Mystery”/” Annie Hall”) for his 36th feature returns to London for his follow-up film after his acclaimed Match Point, one of his better films in years. The lightweight comedy/ghostly murder mystery is also a return to Woody’s decade long string of mediocrity. The film shoots for laughs and thrills, but Woody seems so doddering in the lead role and it’s so lazily filmed, implausible, stuck on one-liners that seem recycled and it becomes tedious as it plays out as a pale imitation of a Hitchcockian suspense thriller. The 70-year-old comedian just seems to be turning out the same old, same old, with no edge to his familiar and safe comedies. But for those diehard Woody fans, he can still come up with around a half-dozen or so laugh-out-loud zingers such as “I was born into the Hebrew persuasion, but when I got older I converted to narcissism.” Though “Scoop” is amiable, harmless and not really terrible, that still doesn’t make it good cinema or anything more than Woody exercising his narcissistic right to keep cranking them out (with him in front of the camera) as long as there’s an audience (which he has a right to do and I have a right to critique).

The plot line has Brooklynite Sondra Pransky (Johansson) as a college newspaper journalist visiting well-connected Brit friends in London on her summer vacation. When she takes in a magical stage show with her hosts, she’s called up to the stage by the second-rate Catskills vaudeville magician Splendini (Woody Allen). He places the young eyeglass wearing, mousy looking, co-ed in a trick booth as part of his corny disappearing “de-materializing” routine, but in the booth a recently deceased ace Fleet Street journalist named Joe Strombel (Ian McShane) appears as a ghost to give her the scoop that the “Tarot Card Serial Killer,” who strangled a number of brunette prostitutes recently in London, is none other than Peter Lyman (Hugh Jackman), the wealthy, handsome, suave playboy son of Lord Lyman. Joe got the tip on his death voyage crossing of the River Styx on the Grim Reaper’s tramp steamer from Peter’s secretary Jane Cook (Fenella Woolgar), who was just poisoned by her boss when she discovered he was the Jack the Ripper type of a serial killer. Peter escapes the death voyage to encourage Sondra to chase down the story of a lifetime. To do her journalism thing Sondra takes on the false identity of a Wasp and takes the name Jade Spence and has Splendini, whose real name is Sidney Waterman, pose as her oil magnate father “Mr. Spence.” She schemes to meet Peter at his club, and before you know it the dynamic duo are invited to Peter’s family estate for a garden party and they’re both following up the otherworldy tips that keep pouring in from a determined Joe who coaches Sondra on how to crack the story. Which means Sidney kvetches while Sondra falls in love with Peter, and in a predictable fashion the two unlikely dim-witted amateur sleuths get to the bottom of things. The problem is that most of the material was stale and shallow and the lead characters were more silly than funny. But one can say with a sense of cinematic justice that at least Woody’s not the elderly romantic lead pawing at a much younger broad, as was his want until recently.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”