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Scoop /

Rated: PG-13

Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Hugh Jackman, Woody Allen, Ian McShane, Julian Glover

Directed by: Woody Allen

Produced by: Letty Aronson, Gareth Wiley

Written by: Woody Allen

Distributor: Focus Features Distribution

 

     It would be hard for me to encourage any filmmaker to be derivative, but in the Woody Allen Comedyís case, the technique works. Of course, thatís not to say that the derivation used in Allenís latest film, Scoop, led its craft to match that of, say, Annie Hall. And the statement certainly doesnít apply to the writer/directorís work in genres outside of comedy; last yearís ďthrillerĒ Match Point was so stiffly referential and predictable that I practically felt like boycotting his career. Regardless, I would be lying if I said that I didnít enjoy watching Woody Allen make comedies. Scoop is slightly staler than each of its predecessors from the filmmaker, but Allenís ear for witty punch-lines and gift in staging combine with fresh performances from leads Scarlett Johansson and Hugh Jackman to make it a thoroughly humorous film.

     Johansson plays Sondra Pransky, a young, American journalism student vacationing in London. During her trip, Sondra doesnít intend on investigating much more than an interview with a popular filmmaker for her school-newspaper, but runs into much more than she bargains for when she attends a magic show put on by the sleezy, neurotic Splendini (Allen). When participating in the Age-Old ďMagic BoxĒ trick, Sondra comes into contact with the ghost of a late, infamous British Journalist, Joe Strombel. Joe informs her that Peter Lyman (Jackman), son of successful aristocrat businessman Lord Lyman (Julian Glover), is the ďTarot Card KillerĒ, a wanted man who has pathologically murdered a series of short-haired prostitutes. He has discovered this while on his long journey into the afterlife across the River Styx, alongside Lymanís former-secretary, who was poisoned after her criminal of a boss overheard a telephone conversation in which she suggested his potential involvement in the deaths. Sondra, realizing that she has a story for the ages on her hands, decides to go undercover with Splendini as Jade Spence, a wealthy Californian who attracts Lyman from the second he lays eyes on her.

     Sitting here thinking about all of the recent Woody Allen comedies released, Iím puzzled as to why people are displeased the direction in which his career has gone. Clearly, Allen hasnít made a truly great film in years, but then again, who has made as many great films as he has? His recent Curse of the Jade Scorpion, Hollywood Ending, Anything Else, and, indeed, Scoop, may be footnotes on his lengthy career, but they still function as enjoyable pieces of work made by a reputable filmmaker. Allenís skill in assembling pictures is thoroughly apparent here, accentuating his pleasurably fast-talking dialogue as performed by the charismatic pair formed by a saucy Johansson and a devious Jackman. Thereís no use in trying to compare Scoop to Allenís best efforts when it works as a perfectly thoughtful, engaging, and clever film on its own. This film serves as ideal counter-programming to all of the summerís big, brainless blockbusters.

-Danny, Bucket Reviews (8.2.2006)

 


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