Scoop (PG-13) ★★½

Review Date: July 28th, 2006

Woody Allen's London-set comedy caper doesn't break any new ground, but he and Match Point muse Scarlett Johansson are good for some odd-couple laughs.


All plucky journalism student Sondra Pransky (Johansson) wants is a big story to get her career off the ground; instead, she finds herself in the London audience of a corny magic show headlined by New York schlemiel Splendini, aka Sid Waterman (Allen). But while Sondra is helping Sid with one of his tricks, she gets an unexpected, ghostly visit from recently deceased star reporter Joe Strombel (Ian McShane). He tips her off to the scoop of a lifetime: Handsome political rising star Peter Lyman (Hugh Jackman) just might be the notorious Tarot Card Killer. With Sid's reluctant help (he poses as her dad), Sondra decides to investigate the story by getting closer to Lyman--who turns out to be suave, charming, and instantly smitten by her. In between looking for clues and bickering with Sid, Sondra has to decide whether to trust her reporter's instinct or her softening heart.


No one can do Allen's trademark neurotic, twitchy rambling like the man himself (as many of his recent movies starring other leading men have proved), and he's in fine form as Sid, peppering his conversation with Allen-isms like ''I see the glass as half full, but with poison.'' At least Allen has finally stopped casting himself as the love interest of women less than half his age; here, he's a faux father for Johansson, looking out for Sondra's best interests as often as he chides her for some imagined slight. Speaking of Johansson, she tackles Allen's typically wordy script with gusto and great timing, selling both Sondra's strange affinity for Sid and her earnest innocence around Peter. Jackman doesn't have too much to do other than be attractive and slightly mysterious, but he's a good straight man for some of Sondra's sillier, dental-related punchlines (don't ask).


Allen has been accused of making the same movie over and over, and Scoop isn't exactly evidence in his favor. All witticisms and suspense-less suspense, it's pure Woody fluff, and it feels a lot like The Curse of the Jade Scorpion and Manhattan Murder Mystery. On the plus side, unlike his last comedy--the excruciating Melinda and Melinda--most of the dialogue sounds believable in the characters' mouths, and there's someone to root for. Realism and logic may not be Scoop's strong points--there's the whole dead-reporter angle, for one thing, and Sid and Sondra's decision to team up to investigate Peter seems dictated by the laws of cinema rather than real life--but fans of Allen's comedies will probably find it decent entertainment.

Bottom Line rated this film 2 1/2 stars.