Posted at 2:09 PM on July 27, 2006
by Euan Kerr
Woody Allen has grown into himself. For years he's played a puny wisenheimer who faces the things that scare him (bullies, women, and death amongst others) with a torrent of one-liners. He was very funny, particularly in some of his early films.
Yet the shtick always came with a nod and a wink to the fact that Woody was an able-bodied, and multi-talented man, who was nowhere as wimpy as he professed.
Time has changed that. Sid Waterman, alias "The Great Splendini" in "Scoop," Allen's latest film, is a wiseacre all right. He's a second-rate magician whose patter barrage is an enfeebled man's sole protection against a malevolent world. Allen looks frail. He looks like one slip on a kerb and he'll shatter.
He just looks more human, and that's a good thing.
Much against his will Waterman gets caught up in a supernaturally inspired newspaper investigation. A student journalist called Sondra Pransky (Scarlett Johansson) volunteers to go into Waterman's 'dematerializer' during his act at a London theater. While she is in there she's visited by the ghost of a recently deceased reporter who has a tip of a lifetime. He knows the true identity of the Tarot Card serial killer, and tells Sondra she has to get the story. She enlists Waterman's help after the ghost appears to him too.
It turns out the suspect is a suave upper class sophisticate called Peter Lyman (Hugh Jackman.) Inevitably she falls for him even as she is trying to prove he's a multiple murderer.
Johansson is a great foil for Allen. She provides the backbone for the intrepid pair, and gives as good as she gets when the Great Splendini begins whining. She becomes the young Woody Allen's proxy, with added vigor and sensuality.
This film is not an Allen classic, but it's perfectly presentable, and will provide some great party one-liners for those fortunate enough to be able to remember them. ("I never gain an ounce because my anxiety works like aerobics." Guess who said that?)