Hopping the pond is the smartest move Allen's made in years.
Last night, I went and saw Scoop, the new Woody Allen comedy. My main interest was finding a well air-conditioned space that didn't require me to drink alcohol, but I have to say I found the film quite amusing. It's a charming and sometimes witty whodunnit, where the mystery is secondary to the quirky characters--like Manhattan Murder Mystery, but set in London. After years (decades?) of regurgitating the same stale stories, Allen has found a new creative outlet by sending his nebbishy lead into unfamiliar territory.
Scarlet Johansson, star of Allen's last British affar, Match Point, is the Woody stand-in this time, a firmly direct but sometimes blunderous student journalist in London investigating whether dashing millionare Peter Lyman (Hugh Jackman) is the dreaded Tarot Card killer. Allen does appear in the film, but thankfully not as Johansson's love interest. He's a father figure of sorts, a cornball stage magician named Splendini who accidentally connects Johansson to a recently deceased reporter (Ian McShane) with inside information on the case. Though Johansson is a little out of her element (why is this 20-year-old kid constantly cast in roles that are beyond her depth and age?), Allen guides her well and their reparte is keenly sharp for the most part. Jackman has little trouble playing the smooth rich guy--though the part doesn't demand much.
It's all very light and silly, and if you're the kind of person who likes to follow mysteries and figure out who the guilty party is before the characters do, don't get your hopes up. But if you're looking for a lighthearted romantic comedy with solid performances, a few knee-slappers, and a refreshing return to form by a flagging genius, this one's a definite keeper.
At the very least, you'll be cool and comfortable for a few hours.