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STARRING
Scarlett Johansson, Woody Allen, Hugh Jackman, Ian McShane
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY
Woody Allen
MPAA RATING
Rated PG-13
RUNNING TIME
96 Mins.
DISTRIBUTED BY
Focus Features
 "Scoop" Review 
The Perfect Man. The Perfect Story. The Perfect Murder.
 
It is widely accepted that Scarlett Johansson is one of today's most talented actresses.

Should very many people actually see "Scoop," her second collaboration with writer/director Woody Allen, there is also likely to be wide acceptance that this performance is, most definitely, her worst performance in a young, promising career.

While last year's "Match Point" signaled to many a return to form for Allen after years of uninspired drivel that seemed to float by on Allen's reputation more than his actual talent. While Johansson's performance in that film was a tad uneven, a strong cast and Allen's best script in years resulted in Allen's most successful production in quite some time.

"Scoop" is Allen's second England-based film in a row, along with being his second collaboration in a row with Johansson. While some have tried to claim her as his latest muse, it's hard to imagine this uneven pairing continuing much longer.

"Scoop" is clearly intended as a comedy, however, a disturbing number of potentially comic situations fall flat and many of Allen's typically self-deprecating jokes simply fall flat.

Remember trying to watch Tara Reid convincingly portray intelligence during Uwe Boll's "Alone in the Dark?"

It's equally dismal trying to watch Scarlett Johansson portray someone obviously lacking in common sense in intelligence. Johansson has made a nice career for herself portraying women of uncommon intelligence and sensuality.

Here, Johansson portrays Sondra Pransky, an American journalism student on vacation in England having promised her school paper she would obtain an interview with famous film director Mike Tinsley. Her inexperience shows, however, and a quickly intoxicated Sondra is quickly bedded by Tinsley without her ever obtaining the interview.

A Distraught Sondra joins her friends at a theatre show featuring Splendini (Woody Allen). While participating in a "disappearing" trick, she is visited by the ghost of Joe Strombel (Ian McShane) a reporter on the way to hell who gets the scoop of a lifetime implicating the aristocratic Peter Lyman (Hugh Jackman) in England's infamous "Tarot Card Killer."

The "ghost" shares this knowledge in various ways throughout the film, none of which are particularly funny and/or convincing and/or entertaining.

Our inexperienced reporter goes at it again, this time with Splendini by her side, in investigating the case, seeking the truth and trying to confirm the suspicions about Lyman.

Did I mention that she gets bedded down by this guy, too? Oh wait, it's even better than that...she falls head over heels for him.

It's a sure sign that a film isn't working when you start having random obsessions in the middle of the film...

For example, is it just me or does Scarlett Johansson sound a bit like Sharon Stone?

OR

Has Woody Allen ever actually gotten new glasses?

OR

How does a screenwriter make millions churning out bad script after bad script and I can't even get hired to work the night shift at Wal-Mart?

Johansson starts off the film basically imitating Allen, and by the time she seems comfortable with her character it's too late to salvage the wildly chaotic performance. While it's far from an awful performance, it's certainly not a performance worthy of Johansson's immense talents. While I don't begrudge anyone having a good time while making a film, I'd fully expect that good time to show up on screen.

It doesn't. It simply doesn't.

As the potential killer, Jackman is a tad more convincing in a role that essentially asks him to combine debonair with dangerous. It's not a tremendous stretch for Jackman, but it's a definite breath of fresh air for the film.

Most uncomfortable of all, however, is the performance of Woody Allen. Allen always has, and probably always will have himself acting in the films he directs. In "Match Point," however, he actually stepped back and allowed others to be in the spotlight. In "Scoop," Allen gives himself a significant role (thankfully NOT a romantic leading man) and yet his role doesn't fit well with the overall tone of the film.

It's also a tad creepy to watch Allen's camera shots of Johansson, which border on obsessive (By the way, how have I missed Johansson's huge breasts all these years? Allen, for sure, is discreetly pre-occupied with them throughout the film).

At his best, Woody Allen has been a master of dialogue and and the often hilarious dance between lovers and friends. At his worst, Allen comes off as pretentious, self-promoting and just plain peculiar. "Scoop" falls almost squarely in the middle of the two. While it is a minor improvement over Allen's long period of mediocrity, it is a significant drop from last year's return to form, "Match Point."

"Scoop" is, perhaps, a reminder that Woody Allen actually has very little left to say and, thus, he keeps trying to find new, ever so slightly innovative ways to retell the same old story time and again.

There's a scene in "Scoop" where a newspaper editor is telling Sondra that no respectable newspaper in their right mind would touch her story. Much the same could be said about the script for "Scoop." Were it not for the name Woody Allen being attached to it, "Scoop" wouldn't make its way out of an writer's workshop.

From the poor production values of the "hell" scenes to the poorly constructed script to Allen's irritating performance and Johansson's unconvincing one, "Scoop" simply is a film that didn't need to be made.

Last year, Allen actually proved he has something left. He wrote and directed a serious film devoid of his typical Allenisms. While certainly not perfect, "Match Point" was a reminder of the genius lying within Woody Allen. "Scoop" is, sadly, more similar to last year's unexpected hit "The Aristocrats." In that one-joke film, the film worked because the joke was funny and the tone of the film was constantly funny. "Scoop" often feels like a one-joke film where the joke isn't funny and the tone never varies...we get the same joke over and over and over again delivered in exactly the same tone over and over and over again.

See what I mean?

I've got the scoop of a lifetime for you...skip "Scoop" and rent "Match Point" instead
 
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic
    The Official Rating Guideline
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