Scoop Woody Allen

Scoop Woody Allen
There’s something truly delightful about Scarlett Johansson. Her fresh presence can lift a scene as a crock of buttercups lightens old wallpaper. Woody Allen’s too wise a filmmaker not to make full use of this quality and he does so to great effect in his new London-set comedy Scoop.

Johansson plays a blithe, earnest student reporter who gets a hot tip from beyond the grave on a serial murder case. She enlists the help of vaudevillian magician Splendini, played by Allen, who seizes upon Johansson’s charm as the perfect leavening for his potentially flat, sad sack, neurotic stand-up. And it works; Allen gets genuine laughs even though you know the character and the jokes like the old routine they are, while Johansson invests the naive Sondra Pansky with equal parts reluctance and verve, creating a character that manages to be both suitably Allen-esque and original.

Working from a peppy and economical script, the solid cast includes the recently deceased bulldog journalist played by Ian McShane (a native Brit whose character on the HBO series Deadwood is so forceful that his clipped accent here put me into "withdrawl”); and Hugh Jackman as the handsome, high class suspect. There aren’t a whole lot of twists and turns; they’re not needed, as Johansson and Allen’s natural repartee move the film along. It’s great fun to see Allen employ some of his old "absurdity of the mundane” tricks, including a ferry ride with Death on the River Styx that feels like a bus trip to the Hamptons.

Woody Allen commenced a widely hailed return to form with last year’s sexy thriller Match Point (also starring Johansson); the trend continues with the pleasantly ditzy, surefooted Scoop. (Alliance Atlantis)