Snoop for a Scoop

Reporting live from the dead, legendary reporter Joe Strombel (Ian McShane) informs newbie journalist Sondra Pransky (Scarlett Johansson) a huge scoop. While he’s on a boat crossing the River Styx, he met a secretary who’s been poisoned. The secretary believes she was offed since she was about to report the identity of the Tarot Card Serial Killer: her boss, the dashing son of a lord, Peter Lyman (Hugh Jackman).

Sondra immediately jumps on the case. By posing as an actress named Jade Spence, she manages to worm her way into Peter’s life. The good news: Peter is smitten by her. A convenient girlfriend status leads to more access and more snooping around. The bad news: Sondra could be sleeping with the enemy. And to further complicate matters, her affections towards Peter are growing. However, thanks to an avuncular magician named Sid (Woody Allen), Sondra has somebody who’s looking out for her and reminding her of the primary objective: investigate if Peter Lyman is the notorious serial killer.

You know, watching a Woody Allen movie can’t really disappoint me. I think it has become an acquired taste. Even if I’m watching one of his minor works such as “Scoop,” I’m still entertained. So once again, Johansson collaborates with Allen in London. This time, she’s donning nerdy glasses. And I would have to admit that the movie wouldn’t have worked if it wasn’t for Johansson. I was not convinced that Peter Lyman, with his noble status and all, could instantly fall in love with the dorky Sondra. But since Sondra is played by Scarlett, whom magazines have dubbed the sexiest woman alive, the pairing could be understood. Here, Scarlett Johansson ventures gamely into comedy territory. She’s not that polished as a comic actress, but she copies Woody Allen’s runaway style of speaking. Hey, Scarlett Johansson might not be as amusing as Diane Keaton, but she’s a muse nonetheless. I hope she appears with Woody again; the two can really play a “father-daughter” routine.

Perhaps the drama “Match Point” was so dark that Allen understandably wants to do comedy as his next feature. I say let him, for this time around, he gets to take a stab at the British. There are comical mentions of fox hunt, Jack the Ripper, and driving on the wrong side of the road. There are also few witty lines such as Sid’s persuasion and his repetitive “with all due respect” speech. But I do wish Allen would step back and speak less. For a supporting role, Sid gets too much screen time. I much prefer the Woody Allen behind the camera. He’s actually a magician in his own right. He knows how pull some tricks in plotting. I thought I knew where the story was, but the elusive story kept dodging me each time. And somehow he has a way of making the twists develop naturally. Other movies would have trumpeted their “shocking” twists. In “Scoop,” the final twist was sweetly low-key. By the end, “Scoop” was certainly no poop.

Grade: B+

CAST
Scarlett Johansson, Hugh Jackman, Woody Allen, Ian McShane, and Kevin McNally
Screenplay by
Woody Allen
Directed by
Woody Allen
Rated PG-13 for some sexual content
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