'Scoop'

Allen comes close to making magic again with Johansson

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It's the scoop of a lifetime ... but the reporter happens to be dead. The tipster, too.

Clive Coote
Hugh Jackman, left, and Scarlett Johansson star in Woody Allen's "Scoop."
Click photo for larger image.

'Scoop'

Rating: PG-13 for some sexual content.
Starring: Woody Allen, Scarlett Johansson.
Director: Woody Allen.
Family Film Guide
Web site: www.scoopmovie.net/
Related story: Actors relish chance to work with filmmaking icon

What's a newshound to do? Appear as a ghost to an aspiring journalist and give her the information, which is what Joe Strombel (Ian McShane) does in Woody Allen's "Scoop."

Joe, on the trail of Britain's Tarot Card Killer from the great beyond, appears to a college student named Sondra Pransky (Scarlett Johansson) during a magic act. She has volunteered to assist Splendini, aka Sid Waterman (Woody Allen), as he makes someone "dematerialize" while tucked into a large box on stage.

Joe surfaces, says he has the scoop of the decade about the killer and mentions the name of wealthy British playboy Peter Lyman (Hugh Jackman).

And they're off, as Sondra chases the biggest story since Jack the Ripper and finds herself falling for the charming, good-looking aristocrat who may or may not be a killer. Since Sondra is a college student and Sid more cheap vaudevillian than David Blaine or David Copperfield, some subterfuge is required to blend into the upper class.

"Scoop" gives Allen the chance to unearth some hoary jokes. Entering a grand estate he says, "Brings to mind Trollope. ... Not the author, a girl I knew." So make that trollop. He's got a million of 'em, and he dusts off a few here.

Allen has said that when he was younger, he was a fan of the "Thin Man" films and certain Bob Hope murder mysteries and always considered 1993's "Manhattan Murder Mystery" one of his favorites.

It was a happy reunion of Allen and Diane Keaton as a married couple whose neighbor dies. She is convinced it was murder and enlists a friend in playing sleuth while he becomes increasingly annoyed and jealous. Although no "Annie Hall," it was Allen's most enjoyable film in years.

Now, even Allen knows he's old enough to be Johansson's father (or grandfather) so he's not playing her romantic interest. He even gets zinged about Metamucil. Their father-surrogate daughter dynamic works for them, and her role is much different from her demanding mistress in the suspenseful "Match Point."

Wearing round wireless glasses and with her hair pulled back in a ponytail, she looks young and impressionable, the sort who could be seduced by a man whose estate has been in the family for 400 years. Allen never changes, while McShane leaves you wanting more and Jackman proves a smooth charmer.

Allen leaves enough threads hanging for a moth-eaten sweater and his twist about a young female journalist sleeping with her interview subjects is insulting or unrealistic or disturbing or easy comic fodder. Take your pick.

"Scoop" is lesser Woody Allen, not as good as "Manhattan Murder Mystery" but fun, with some amusing bits about England, death, magic and journalism. It's the movie equivalent of heavy appetizers, which might leave you hungry if you craved a full meal.


Post-Gazette movie editor Barbara Vancheri can be reached at bvancheri@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1632.


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