Sunday, July 30, 2006


Written and directed by Woody Allen
Focus Features

It's only natural after Woody Allen made a triumphant return with Match Point that his next film, back to his comedy norms, would seem like a letdown if it didn't absolutely live up to the standard he re-set for himself. Fortunately, I was able to watch his latest without making the comparison, and I can say that Allen is now on a winning streak.

Sondra Pransky (Scarlett Johansson) is a student reporter looking for a big story, sweetly whorish, not afraid to do what's necessary to get the big scoop. One day, she goes to a magic show starring The Great Splendini, aka Sid Waterman (Allen) and she is picked out of the crowd to help him with a vanishing trick in one of those magic boxes. While in the box, the ghost of a former journalist, Joe Strombel (Ian McShane), gives her cryptic information he has learned concerning the Tarot Card Killer, suspecting him to be London socialite Peter Lyman (Hugh Jackman). Sondra, with the help of the reluctant Sid, try to get involved in Peter's life, she using her assets to attract him, and soon after she's dating him under a false name and under the assumption Sid is her dad. Of course, she's falling for him, making the investigation difficult.

What may lead some to dislike this is that Woody Allen actually steals the movie, while the photogenic Johansson and Jackman sort of take the air out of the picture by comparison. I know both of those actors can be funny, but it's not written that way--Johansson has a few choice lines but Allen kills almost every time he's onscreen, reminiscent of Annie Hall. The difference there, of course, was that Diane Keaton had a good portion of laughs, too. Yet, I never looked on Johansson and Jackman's scenes as a major negative to the picture--it's not like they drag the whole movie down or anything.

The mystery is a bit like Agatha Christie's ABC Murders, and it has either glaring holes or at the very least, a confusing sequence of events much like trying to figure out M.C. Escher's impossible figures. Once everything is revealed, certain scenes don't make sense, and when you think you've figured it out, it runs into a dead end because something else contradicts it. A better plotted mystery, or at the very least a less confusing one, might have gotten Allen overwhelming accolades again.

As is, Allen fans should go see this because of a great many quotable lines, mostly said by him. And there's a great rapport between he and Johansson. It's not too much of a stretch to say this is the funniest movie of the year so far.


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