It’s a holiday week for The Blog. And we even thought about taking the week off from Movie Monday. But what kind of message would that send?!? Instead, since we’re fresh outta copy, we’ll give you a vacation week-worthy review to tide you over until next week.
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Director: Woody Allen. Stars: Woody Allen, Scarlett Johansson, Hugh Jackman, Ian McShane.
Awards Circuit: Nominated for Best European Film (it was filmed entirely in London) at the Goya Awards, the national film awards of Spain.
What Leonard Maltin says: “… the real treat is seeing Woody himself back on screen playing not his usual neurotic nebbish but a hackneyed show-business relic … if you’re a longtime Woody Allen aficionado like me, I think you’ll find it well worth your time.” (From LeonardMaltin.com)
Plot synopsis: An American college reporter visiting London stumbles across a big story when a dead legendary journalist visits her from the afterlife to give her clues about a serial killer case — all while she’s shackin’ up with the subject of her investigation.
Reality Check: Filmed entirely in London, we get a peek inside the offices of The Guardian’s sister Sunday pub, The Observer, when Scarlett Johansson‘s character, Sondra Pransky, visits to try and sell her big-scoop story. And in a few scenes, London compacts like the Daily Express can be seen at newsstands on street corners. But I’m still not buyin’ Johansson as a reporter.
Geek Factor: You’ve gotta be somewhat of a geek to be watching Woody Allen movies to begin with. But for U.S. journalists, the couple of scenes filmed inside The Observer offer brief glimpses into that newsroom.
MattE’s Review: Let me guess — you didn’t see “Scoop” in the theaters. Like most Woody Allen films, it didn’t garner a wide release and only did $10 million at the box office. If you love Allen’s skitchy, twitchy style, you’ll always love him. If he annoys you, he’ll always annoy you. I happen to fall somewhere in the middle — while Allen’s time on screen can wear thin quickly, the dialog he writes is clearly of legendary levels.
Johansson got this role based on her performance in Allen’s previous film, “Match Point,” also filmed entirely in London — the first time he set a story and filmed outside of New York. Allen claims he saw that Johansson had a comedic side to her when he worked with her in “Match Point,” though that was a drama, and wrote the film with her in mind.
The thing is, as movies about investigative reporters go, I ain’t buyin’ it. First of all, we’re supposed to believe that Pransky (Johansson) is visited from the afterlife by legendary London reporter Joe Strombel (Ian McShane) while she is pulled onstage to be part of Allen’s magic act. Strombel tells her he has information on the Tarot Card Killer, who has been ravaging London. It’s a nice twist on Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” appropriate for taking place in old London Town.
As Pransky starts looking for clues, she recruits Allen’s magician character, Sid Waterman, to help her crack the case with continued help from Strombel from his spot in purgatory, apparently on his way to hell by way of a slowly-rowed boat captained by Death. The subject of her investigation is wealthy playboy Peter Lyman (Hugh Jackman), who, of course, Pransky falls for and begins a relationship with — all while continuing to snoop for her scoop.
The Tarot Card killings continue, and we suspect, as Pransky and Waterman do, that Lyman is the killer. The back and forth goes on for a while — I think he’s the killer … maybe he’s not the killer … but wait, he has to be the killer … — building to a predictable ending that leaves the viewer fairly satisfied — even if you’re not ready to pop in another Woody Allen movie for a few days.
It’s not so much a movie about an up-and-coming collegiate investigative reporter as it is, well, a Woody Allen movie that just happens to have a collegiate investigative reporter as its lead. If you’re looking for the Scarlett Johansson you fell for in “Lost in Translation,” you probably won’t find her here. Here, she’s trying to play with lovable nerdiness, which works for a while. But the dialog is typical Allen — witty and snappy, and that helps this pass for 2 1/2-star entertainment on a rainy Saturday afternoon when there’s nothing else to do.