The Movie Binge

Review: Scoop

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Going on its loopy premise, one would reasonably assume that Scoop might be another late period bust for Woody Allen, a la Small Time Crooks or The Curse of the Jade Scorpion, but luckily for Allen cultists, it's a reasonably solid farce that plays up Woody's old school comedic chops.

Scarlett Johansson, who spends most of her time playing sullen, sexy young women with monotone voices, seems to have a lot of fun with her role as a goofy novice reporter, obviously relishing this opportunity to play against type and modulate her voice a bit. Though there are some creaky moments here and there, she's a decent foil for Allen. Their chemistry is a bit like a low key nebbishy version of Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa, and the film is at its best when they are bantering with each other, or playing their obliviousness to class off of stodgy aristocrats.

Oh, well, that's not exactly true – the most fun parts of the movie happen when Ian McShane, who I will refer to as Al Swearengen for the remainder of this review, appears on screen as a ghost of a recently deceased reporter who is guiding Johansson and Allen through the murder mystery plot. Swearengen exudes charisma like few other actors working today, and his broad characterization is ideal for a comedy as silly as Scoop. His character is the least plausible in the film, but somehow it's way easier to imagine this guy scamming his way out of death than totally buying into stone fox Scarlett Johannson as a mousy nerd. (Though in fairness, no one in the film pretends that she's anything other than a total knockout. She may be in Diane Keaton drag for a lot of the movie, but it's sort of fetishistic in the same way that, say, a black latex catsuit or a schoolgirl outfit might be in something else.)

Scoop moves along with an appealing, lighthearted grace, and simply goes about its business of uncomplicated entertainment. The gags are consistently funny, but never quite hilarious. The plot is involving, but not particularly memorable. Swearengen earns the best laughs, but I like the guy better when he takes a swan dive into the deep end of the vulgarity pool, as when he's in the middle of one of his signature blowjob soliloquys on Deadwood. If you're a total dork, there's a great scene toward the end which features both the guy who played Wolverine in the X-Men movies AND the guy who played Giles on Buffy The Vampire Slayer, but it's rather brief. Hugh Jackman is perfectly fine in this movie, and looks very pretty with Johannson, but man, I can't help but wonder how much better this thing could have been if Anthony Stewart Head switched parts with the guy.

Comments

Great review! Yours is the first positive review I've seen of Scoop. I haven't seen it, but I think critics are judging it based on its status as a Woody Allen comedy, rather than just a comedy.

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