With Scoop, Woody Allen returns to the London of last year’s elegantly made, if overblown, Match Point, but now in a mood of classic Woody Allen farce.
In a convoluted plot setup, Allen plays Splendini, a third-rate Catskills-style magician. When he brings Sondra Pransky (Scarlett Johansson), an ambitious young journalism student visiting in London, on stage as a volunteer, both of them are shook up by the appearance of the spirit of a recently deceased journalist, Joe Strombel (Ian McShane), who has a lead on the identity of a serial killer. Pransky, seeing the chance for a career breakthrough, is determined to follow up on Strombel’s clues and she enlists Allen as her partner, as unlikely a pairing as might be seen on screen this year.
The suspect is wealthy, handsome Peter Lymann (Hugh Jackson) with whom Pransky (using the less Jewish, less Brooklyn name, "Spence") quickly becomes sexually and romantically involved. Lymann’s town house and country estate provide eye candy for the Architectural Digest set. The contrast between Spendini’s smarmy stage presence, carried into the world of British aristocracy, provides the source of some of the humor. Allen comes up with a handful of his classic zingers (somehow seeming familiar now, even if new): "I was born in the Hebrew persuasion, but I converted to narcisssism." and "Excitement in my life is dinner without heartburn."
Hard core Allen fans may find it to be sufficient. The entire exercise runs to a fast 96 minutes, but a lot of that time is devoted to working out the overwrought intricacies of plot, with the laughs too few and far between.
Scoop is Woody-ultralite.