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Scarlett Johansson looking sexier than ever
in a red swimsuit. Great. Now I'll never be
able to write this review without drooling all
over the keyboard.

Review written by: Alex Sandell

After nearly a decade of hit or miss films, Woody Allen essentially rewrote and recast his 1989 classic, Crimes and Misdemeanors and renamed it Match Point.  Some fans called it his return to form.  His comeback.  Others thought it dragged and didn't have enough comedy, and they recognized it for what it was:  An interesting spin on a movie he had already written. 

While it was superior in nearly every way to Melinda and Melinda, Anything Else and Hollywood Ending before it, I tended to agree with those who thought it was merely a step in the right direction, not entirely a comeback.  Scoop is Woody Allen's comeback.  The movie oozes vintage Woody Allen from every pore (that sounds nastier than intended). 

This is the one fans of the comic Woody Allen have been waiting for since Mighty Aphrodite in 1995.  From beginning to end, the film is never bogged down with the artsy-fartsy bullshit Woody Allen has had such a problem resisting as of late.  It also stays away from the broad slapstick (Small Time Crooks) that Allen no longer seems capable of properly writing or directing.  If you threw together Manhattan Murder Mystery and The Curse of the Jade Scorpion and gave each film's leading lady humungous boobs, you'd pretty much have Scoop.

In Scoop, Woody Allen -- playing a magician -- invites Scarlett Johansson (she of the humungous boobs) -- a journalist for a college newspaper -- on stage to take part in a magic trick.  She steps into a box where she is supposed to vanish and then reappear, and there she meets a recently deceased investigative reporter (Ian McShane) who briefly managed to cheat death to give her the story of a lifetime.  The wet-behind-the-ears college reporter and the bumbling magician end up hot on the trail of Hugh Jackman's millionaire playboy character, who they suspect of being the Tarot Card Killer.  A man who murders prostitutes with short, brown hair.

Woody Allen, as the magician, delivers some of the best lines he's written in nearly a decade.  His shtick is basically the same, but his delivery is slightly less neurotic than it has been before.  There isn't any pill-popping darkness hidden below the exterior.  The movie is very "what you see is what you get."  Whatever character motivation there is is put up on the screen.

I worried that Scarlett Johansson wouldn't have the comic chops for a film like this, but she delivers.  Her performance is an absolute delight to watch.  I knew the actress had talent, but I didn't know she had timing.  It's hard to make comedy look easy, but Johansson somehow manages (she would have been perfect for the role of Lois Lane in Superman Returns). 

Everyone in the cast does a good job, but the key to the film's success is the unlikely pairing of Johansson and Allen as ham-handed investigative journalists.  Johansson brings out the funny in Allen like nobody since Diane Keaton.  If this movie is any indication, Scarlett Johansson could outdo Mia Farrow in the comedy department any day of the week (and don't even get me started as to which one looks better in a form-fitting swimsuit).

Scoop probably won't be nominated for any Academy Awards (outside of a possible Oscar nod for Johansson).  It will most likely be considered a disappointment by critics who prefer the more dramatic side of Woody Allen -- especially after the deadly serious Match Point.  But if the crowd I saw it with at last night's screening was any indication, this movie will tickle Allen's fans to the core.  There was boisterous laughter throughout and enthusiastic applause at the end. 

Sure, the film is predictable and in some ways seems like "Woody Allen's Greatest Hits," but it's a 70-year-old man directing his 42nd movie.  What Woody Allen movie hasn't felt like a Woody Allen movie?  Familiar or not, this is easily his best film since 1997's Deconstructing Harry (one of my personal favorites) and his funniest since 1993's Manhattan Murder Mystery.  I don't know what Woody's putting in his Metamucil, but whatever it is, it's working.  

Agree? Disagree? Considering Hare Krishna? Email Alex!

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