It was with some reluctance that I went to see Woody Allen's new movie Scoop, having been so disappointed at seeing Match Point last winter. In fact, I'm not sure that I've enjoyed any of the movies Allen has made for about 7 or 8 years. Yet, still I go to the theatre thinking that Woody Allen -- the director that made me at age 19 fall in love with movies by making me laugh, and cry, and think with his wit, charm and lovingly real portrayals of people with all their wonderful foibles -- cannot continue to disappoint. But, I haven't been 19 for sometime.
Scoop, Allen's second "London" movie and second film to star Scarlett Johansson, was supposed to be a comedy, something light to follow the cynical Match Point. But Scoop has something else in common with MatchPoint besides Ms. Johansson and London, which sadly is hardly the backdrop the city is in MatchPoint. (That at least gave us some gorgeous shots of the Thames and the Swiss Re 'Gerkin' building.) That common element is a tired re-working of a previous Allen film. Where MatchPoint was an updating of Crimes and Misdemeanors, Scoop is more or less a re-working of Manhattan Murder Mystery with a less believable set-up, worse acting, and too many jokes stolen from other Allen movies. And, except for a few quick scenes of Royal Albert Hall, it could have been filmed anywhere. London is not Woody Allen's new New York; it is neither a character in this film, nor a backdrop. It's just where he calls home these days and shoots his movies. Might as well be Liverpool or Atlanta. Or Portland or Des Moines (although the Brit jokes would have to change slightly).
Scoop is a slapstick, crime and ghost story, with plenty of jokes about differences between English and American, young and old, Jew and Gentile, with a few angst-filled jokes about life, aging and death. The premise: that The Great Splendini (Allen) accidentally conjured up the ghost of a journalist who convinces naive Journalism student, Sondra Pransky (Johansson) to grab the story of a lifetime. While tracking down the non-existent clues (that's part of the joke), Sondra falls in love with her chief suspect Peter Lyman, played by X-Man hunk Hugh Jackman. This, I suppose, is to provide the 'conflict' in the story. It seems as improbably as the ghost. Of course, Sondra and Splendini are able to ingratiate themselves to upper-crust British society and solve the murder. And, of course, while a happy ending for one of them, there is a price to be paid. Yawn. It's boredom for the audience.
I'm tired of hearing the same Allen jokes. I found them funny when I was younger. Now I just find them boringly predictable. Allen used to be original, but re-working the same old same old isn't original. It's just the same old same old you can see on late night cable re-runs. Save your money and watch Hannah and Her Sisters, or Manhattan or Annie Hall on late-night. Maybe even Crimes and Misdemeanors. Just don't expect to see something even close to that good in Scoop.