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Movie Review


MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some sexual content

Reviewed by: Jonathan Rodriguez

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Romance Cmedy
1hr. 36 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
July 28, 2006 (limited)
Copyright, Focus Features
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Featuring: Scarlett Johansson, Ian McShane, Hugh Jackman, Woody Allen
Director: Woody Allen
Producer: Letty Aronson, Nicky Kentish Barnes, Charles H. Joffe, Helen Robin, Jack Rollins, Stephen Tenenbaum, Gareth Wiley
Distributor: Focus Features

“The perfect man. The perfect story. The perfect murder.”

Woody Allen returns to London in his latest comedy “Scoop”. His last film, the critically acclaimed London-based “Match Point” saw a departure, of sorts, for Allen. The film veered away from his usually lighthearted comedic fare, in the direction of a morality tale in the garbs of a thriller. But, for those of us who enjoy the writer-director’s comedic flair a little more, he follows up “Match Point” with a delightful murder-mystery that should please his many fans.

Ian McShane (from HBO’S “Deadwood”) plays Joe Strombel, a legendary London newspaper reporter who we learn has died from coronary thrombosis. The film opens with his funeral, and then with his newspaper buddies gathered in a pub reminiscing about the kind of reporter Joe was. We then see Strombel for the first time, sailing on a foggy night, in a boat steered by the Grim Reaper. It is assumed they are headed for whatever eternity awaits them; Joe asks the Grim Reaper where they are going, evens tries to bribe him for the answer, but Grim doesn’t say a word. Joe then strikes up conversation with one of the other passengers, who informs him that she believes her death was caused by a poisoning. This wouldn’t normally be a big deal, but she adds that the person who killed her may have been the famous London aristocrat Peter Lyman (Hugh Jackman).

She believes that Lyman killed her because she figured out that he was the infamous “Tarot Card Killer” who had been preying on London prostitutes for quite some time. Strombel recognizes this as a big scoop for a potentially groundbreaking story, and finds a way to jump ship in order to inform a living reporter of the details.

That reporter is Sondra Pransky (Scarlett Johansson). Pransky is at the magic show of third-rate vaudevillian “The Great Splendini,” otherwise known as Sidney Waterman (Woody Allen). Splendini calls her up onstage where he puts her in the “Dematerializer,” a large box which he promises will split her atoms (and so forth) and return her intact. While inside the box, Pransky is visited by Strombel, who informs her of all the juicy details regarding the “Tarot Card Killer.” He tells her who he thinks the killer is, and how important it is that she break the story if she can find enough evidence against the wealthy Lyman.

Pransky is in shock over the event, and returns the following day to ask Splendini/Waterman about the apparition. Waterman doesn’t believe her, until Strombel appears to both of them, prodding Pransky to get moving on the story. Pransky recruits Waterman to go along on the investigation, where they meet Lyman, and try to uncover evidence of his guilt in the killings. Along the way, complications arise when Lyman and Pransky take a shining to each other, and when the bumbling detectives’ plans begin to unravel.

I guess it should be noted right off that I am a very big fan of Woody Allen’s comedies. I know he is most famous for the ones he released quite some time ago, but I have very much enjoyed the lightweight comedies he has given us over the past ten years or so. I enjoy his neurotic twitching and stuttering, and his brilliant delivery of lines that most others could never pull off. If Allen irritates you, if in your opinion Allen’s neurotic behavior becomes tedious, then “Scoop” might not be your kind of movie.

The performances in the film are all outstanding. I was not very familiar with the work of Ian McShane, but he is excellent in his supporting role as the reporter seeking his last big scoop. Woody Allen is exactly as we expect him to be—funny, insecure, bumbling—and he delivers another fine performance. Scarlett Johansson is the perfect choice to play opposite Allen; her bumbling simpleton reporter makes a great pair with Allen’s aging magician. And Hugh Jackman is smooth as ever, as the squeaky-clean aristocrat who may or may not have something to hide.

Unfortunately, though, “Scoop” contains some elements that taint it for Christian audiences. There are a number of profane uses of the Lord’s name, as well as one or two GDs thrown in along the way. All of these words are pointlessly used by the characters, mostly out of frustration, but Christian ears will certainly not take kindly to them.

There are no sexual scenes in the film; however, sex is implied on more than one occasion. When we first meet Johansson’s character, she is interviewing a famous actor, who apparently gets her in bed in no time. Then, it doesn’t take long for her to jump in the sack with Lyman. Her character is a fairly well-written one, which is why such promiscuous and un-Godly behavior seems out of place. She, as well as another character, display cleavage during a few scenes, and is seen in nothing, but a towel, a few times.

There isn’t much violence to speak of—all of the killings occur off-screen. Some may be offended by the scene of the souls being shipped off to eternity by the Grim Reaper, although these scenes are not scary and are played for laughs. The film makes no mention of Heaven or Hell, and doesn’t seem too concerned with where exactly the souls are being shipped off to. Perhaps a scene like this could be used as a springboard into a discussion on salvation and eternal life by those Christians who may view this film with non-Christian friends. As always, though, parents are urged to look into this film and its content before allowing children to see it, although I doubt many children will be asking.

Strictly as a movie, I really liked “Scoop”; I just wish it could have done without some of the afore-mentioned content. To be honest, I laughed out loud and more often than I have at any other movie that has come into theaters lately. I loved the ending, even though I must admit I was surprised a bit by it, and even it had me laughing to myself. I left the theater smiling, which doesn’t happen too often. But, I recognize that there are those who will be bored, or annoyed with Allen’s comedic tendencies. If you have seen his more recent comedies like “Curse of the Jade Scorpion” or “Small Time Crooks”, then know to expect more of that same kind of humor. So, if you didn’t like those, chances are you may think I am foolish (like most people apparently thought of me after my last review of “Lady in the Water”), for recommending this film. But if you did like them, then “Scoop” may be right up your alley, if you can get past the objectionable content. For me, “Scoop” ranks as an A-.

Violence: Minor / Profanity: Moderate / Sex/Nudity: Moderate

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Positive—Awesome movie, and extremely hilarious. I was mesmerized by each character, especially Woody Allen. The only thing my friend and I found objectionable was that the main character, Saundra Pranski, yielded to all of Peter Lyman’s sexual advances. However, the kissing was surprisingly minimal, like in cartoon movies (if that counts for something), and there was no hint of a sex scene. Anything sexual was kept to the absolute minimum. Much more emphasis was placed on the wonderful personalities of the characters and their comedic actions. I really liked this movie, I’m going to see it again! All the jokes are clean.
My Ratings: Better than Average / 5
—Tanda Murray, age 23
Positive—I liked the film. In my view, the female character’s promiscuity is played for laughs (she’s not too bright at the start, and easily seduced). The opening scenes are references to the River Styx, from Greek mythology (the boat by which the dead go to the underworld). Some Christians may find them objectionable, but there is no implicit theology; just an extended gag built on classical Greek mythology. I found it one of the funnier bits in the movie.

For me, the most offensive parts of Woody’s movies, in general, is a pervading nihilism. That is refreshingly absent here, or at least so understated that I never noticed it—and I’m generally alert to that. In general, I’m far more offended by movies that preach a philosophy I don’t agree with than by the occasional bad word. This was a fun movie with no particularly negative philosophy. Hitchcock fans will also enjoy it. Woody has clearly studied Hitchcock, and it’s fascinating to think how well sections of this film would have made a good Hitchcock film, too, if played for tension rather than humor.
My Ratings: Average / 4
—Rick, age 52
Positive—A light-hearted mystery in classic Woody Allen style. A pleasant enough movie for passing time with friends and/or family. Most audiences will enjoy the movie. The cast and crew do a very commendable job. Scarlet Johanssen shines as a slightly clueless “investigate reporter” who struggles with her commitment to get the scoop and her feelings for Hugh Jackman's character. The movie’s best quality is that it doesn’t paint all its characters in one shade or the other. Each have their own quirks and faults. The comedy is a refreshing change from all the vulgarity that runs rampant these days. There are many laughs along the way, and it comes across as very natural. Definitely recommended.
My Ratings: Average / 5
—Sunita Selvaraj, age 34