One Scoop or Two? None

2 minute read
Richard Corliss

A handsome, charming Brit with a possible corpse or two in his closet: this was the premise of Match Point, Woody Allen’s sharpest film in ages and his first to crack $20 million at the domestic box office since Hannah and Her Sisters. Allen must have thought it was worth a replay, with Scarlett Johansson again serving as the love interest. Hence Scoop, which twists Match Point’s rogue’s-progress plot into a kind of detective story and its tone from scathing social drama into what must officially be labeled comedy.

The gentleman under suspicion is Peter Lyman (Hugh Jackman), a moneyed chap who is polite to the point of blandness–the white bread of the English upper crust. Through a device too silly to be mentioned here, he comes to the attention of Sondra Pransky (Johansson), an American college student abroad. She believes Peter may be the infamous Tarot Card Killer who has been murdering prostitutes. Her co-sleuth is Sid Waterman (Allen), a not-so-hot magician who masquerades as her oil-rich father.

To say that Allen’s new film is pretty lame does not exactly qualify as a, well, scoop. That verdict has become distressingly routine. The new movie recalls older, better ones in its attempts at fantasy and its cameo by Death, but it is deficient as a mystery (it leaves unsolved the premature death that sets the tale in motion) and as a character study (we haven’t a clue about what makes Peter tick).

That leaves comedy, and here the movie fails utterly. Lately, Allen’s gags have been small, sad efforts, not the gut-grabbing, head-hurting zingers of his youth. Maybe fate grants any man only a certain number of great jokes, and Allen, 70, exhausted his allotment long ago. Yet he remains addicted to the form well after losing the aptitude.

At this late stage in a long career, Allen might consider not trying to make films like the early, funny ones. Instead he should aim simply to match Match Point.

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