A review of “Scoop” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: **

Rating: PG-13 for language and adult situations

Run Time: 1 hour, 36 minutes

 

 

Woody Allen churns out another breezy confection, the sort of comic frippery that’s wearing thin with age and repetition.

Allen himself jumps back onto the screen as low-budget sorcerer Splendini (aka Sid Waterman) who becomes involved with an ambitious college journalist (Scarlett Johansson as Sondra Pransky) when she encounters an unearthly apparition as part of Splendini’s schlocky disappearing wardrobe act.

The specter is the ghost of Joe Strombel (Ian McShane), a freshly deceased Fleet Street scribe who has the scoop of the century and can’t bear to take it to the grave with him. Seems one lordly Peter Lyman (Hugh Jackman – yum) may be the infamous Tarot Card Killer who is offing brunette prostitutes all over merry London town.

Madcap hilarity – and recycled gags aplenty -- ensues as Sondra, masquerading as American tourist Jade Spence, makes a play for Lyman by catching his eye with a slinky red maillot and an ersatz drowning act at a tony swim club. Mission accomplished.

Sondra and Sid, who doubles as Sondra’s oil-drilling, poker-playing, real-estate mogul dad, amateur sleuth their way through a potpourri of mixed bits, rubbing shoulders with the hoi polloi and poking for clues with unseasoned gusto. A handful of vignettes inspire laughs but most lack the snap, crackle and pop of Allen’s earlier comic work.

Jade’s bogus romance is a pleasant distraction from the cliché and convention. Sondra falls hard and fast (he’s Hugh Jackman and she’s only human) and wants desperately to believe that Lyman is innocent. But repeated visits from the very dead Strombel assure her that she’s on the right track and getting warmer. And how.

Allen’s shtick is painfully been-there, done-that; whiny protests of pro-Semite misery tinged with shrill Brooklyn bite. There’s an uneasy and bitter edge to this past-his-shelf-life curmudgeon.

Johansson and comedy is a refreshing combination; smart spunk, guileless glee and nary a fit of Gen-Y angst. Jackman is as Jackman does; oozing charm and charisma from every pore even while suspected of the darkest deeds.

Pleasant enough trifle but this is no “Annie Hall”.