Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Woody Allen, Hugh Jackman, Ian McShane
Director: Woody Allen
Writer/director Woody Allen is a notoriously hit-and-miss filmmaker who has more recently suffered through an entire decade of letdowns (save for last year’s award-nominated “Match Point”). Of course, this makes his latest comedy caper, “Scoop,” less of a disappointment, but the film is still a disaster in more ways than one. Allen seems to have a real passion for writing comedies that feature old-school mystery scenarios , but we’ve seen it done too many times before, and they’ve never really been any good. “Scoop” doesn’t offer anything new, either, and though the picture opens strong with the help of a charismatic supporting turn by “Deadwood” star Ian McShane, it begins to stumble around its ideas more than Allen does with the neurotic delivery of his lines.
The film stars Scarlett Johansson (the director’s newest muse) as Sondra Pransky, an American journalism student visiting family friends in London. She’s not exactly a skilled writer, however, so when she’s briefly visited by the spirit of a recently deceased investigative journalist (McShane) with a hot tip on the identity of the infamous Tarot Card Killer, she jumps at the chance of making a name for herself. The supernatural experience comes courtesy of a magic performance by the bumbling Sid Waterman (Allen), who also joins the young reporter in the hunt, but Sondra is quick to make the biggest mistake in the book: falling in love with the chief suspect, a British aristocrat named Peter Lyman (Hugh Jackman) who seems far too gentlemanly to even be considered as the one behind the strangling of twelve London-based prostitutes.
If there’s one glaring drawback to “Scoop,” it’s Johansson’s wooden performance as the female Allen-type, who delivers her lines with less zest than the entire cast of a third-grade musical. Usually, even bad performances by the actress are made more enjoyable by her smoking hot attributes, but this time around, her nerdy wardrobe discourages any perverted gawking. Of course, Jackman isn’t much better, here decidedly trying something a little different from his usual cup of tea, and failing miserably in the process. Fortunately, Allen does his best to entertain with lines like “I don’t think the glass is half empty; The glass is half full… of poison” and his usual bag of first-class narcissism.
This complete lack of any notable performances could have easily remedied if Ian McShane had just been more prominently featured in the film. He’s not given much more to do other than a handful of scenes where he spends just as much time fading in and out as he does actually talking. Still, even if the actor was bestowed a larger part, it wouldn’t have made the film that much better. This is lazy filmmaking at its absolute worse, and it’s something that may have to do with Allen writing a new script every year, for the past forty years. Here’s a scoop of my own: the dude’s gotta be tired. Take some time off and come back in a few years. I know I could use a break.