Stars: Scarlett Johansson

Director: Woody Allen

Rating: PG

* (out of five)


Woody Allen’s latest movie marks a moment of personal growth for the fading legend: He’s finally abandoned the pretense of casting himself as a romantic lead opposite women four or five decades his junior. In Scoop, he gets to share the screen with Scarlett Johansson, but he’s supposed to be her father.

Would that the growth had taken place in the artistic arena, as well. Scoop, alas, is another of the disappointments Allen has been cranking out for the past 15 years, a half-baked concept for a comedy filled with recycled jokes, familiar obsessions and clumsy attempts to recall his glory.

Sure, it’s set in England, which still feels fresh after the success of Match Point, and in addition to Johansson, who plays an American journalism student trying to figure out whether a society swell is secretly the serial killer who’s been terrorizing London’s short-haired brunettes, the cast includes Hugh Jackman, as the swell, and Deadwood’s Ian McShane as a veteran reporter.

But Allen’s in there, too, playing a vaudevillian magician whose hokey disappearing cabinet kicks the plot into high gear and forces Johansson to enlist him as her reluctant sidekick.

That Allen is deaf to the thudding notes of his script comes as no surprise, but it’s shocking that he mucks things up as a performer — that musty nebbish act, with its familiar Yiddish references and nervous rambling, just kills every one of his scenes. Like his character, Scoop tries to be classy, but you can see the chintz leaking out of the seams.