Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 27, 2007)
With 2005ís Match Point, Woody Allen did a lot to revitalize his career. Not only did critics like it, but also Allen attracted a decent audience to movie screens for the first time in quite a while. No, the flickís $23 million gross wasnít amazing, but since it was the first Allen effort since the mid-Eighties to pass the $20 million mark, this was a good improvement.
2006ís Scoop went back to Woodyís old patterns. Critics failed to muster much enthusiasm for it, and the flick made a mere $10 million in the US. What should Allen learn from this experience? Quality flicks produce enthusiastic audiences. Since Scoop is eminently forgettable, the lackluster response to it shouldnít surprise.
Scoop opens with the funeral of daring reporter Joe Strombel (Ian McShane). After some eulogizing, we meet Joe himself as he finds himself stuck in a boat headed to the afterlife. Another dead passenger passes on her suspicion that rising politician Peter Lyman (Hugh Jackman) is actually the notorious serial slayer known as the Tarot Card Killer.
Joe canít keep this juicy information under wraps. He slips out of the boat and manages to channel his ghostly self into the presence of journalism student Sondra Pransky (Scarlett Johansson). He relates his info to her while sheís part of a magic trick performed by the Great Splendini, aka Sidney Waterman (Allen).
Sondra runs with this and involves Sidney. At first he doubts her, but when he also witnesses the apparition, he believes. Sondra and Sidney follow Lyman and she gets to know him when she pretends to drown. After Lyman rescues her, she fakes the identity of a Palm Beach heiress named Jade Spence. She refers to Sidney as her dad, and the pair get ensnared in British high society when Lyman takes a romantic fancy to her. The movie follows the character pairings and Sondraís attempts to investigate the Tarot Card Killer.
Although Allen made his name intelligent comedies, over the last couple of decades, much of his best work has come from more dramatic fare. Efforts like Match Point and Crimes and Misdemeanors proved bright and involving, while many of Allenís comedic attempts lacked zest or cleverness. Instead, weíve gotten witless fare like Mighty Aphrodite and Anything Else.
While I wouldnít call Scoop as dismal as those flicks, I canít claim that it offers much entertainment. Indeed, it presents an awfully thin flick. The plot barely qualifies as such. Instead, itís more of a story concept than a full-fledged tale. We get a cute idea spread across more than 90 minutes without decent development.
Ala something such as Manhattan Murder Mystery, Scoop attempts to span two genres as a comedy mystery. Like the somewhat more satisfying MMM, this sucker doesnít coalesce well and it fails to explore either area well. Scoopís mystery elements prove wholly predictable and unsatisfying, while the comedy doesnít produce laughs. The movie meanders through its inevitable developments and doesnít manage to involve or amuse.
Many times Allen casts an actor as a stand-in for himself. Oddly, even though Woody appears in the flick, Scoop does that as well. Iím not sure if Sondra is supposed to be a Woody doppelganger, but she comes across that way. Unfortunately, Johansson doesnít do well in the part. Itís odd enough to see a busty blonde Woody, but the part fails to fit Johanssonís talents. She doesnít pull off the quirkiness necessary for the part. Sure, we can easily believe that Lyman will fall for super-hot Sondra, but Johanssonís attempts to create a goofy, semi-nerdy character falls flat.
That goes for most elements of Scoop. It doesnít create a painful 96 minutes, but it does nothing especially well. It just meanders as it progresses toward its inevitable conclusion.