Movie review: “Scoop”

I’d promised myself to steer well clear of any movies written or directed by Woody Allen – or, heaven forbid, starring him.

So it must have been a mischievous fairy who made my hand stray to this movie. Not only is Scoop (2006) written and directed by him, but it also stars him as one of the main characters! Argh!

Scoop (trailer) is both a romantic comedy and a little bit of a murder mystery set in the UK (not in Manhattan, like so many of his movies).

The film starts with a memorial service for an investigative reporter Joe Strombel (played by Ian McShane). Joe’s spirit finds itself trapped on a barge, being piloted across a misty river in the dead of night (sorry) by the Grim Reaper himself (plus hooded cloak and a sickle), together with a whole group of others who appear to have died too. Joe, ever the inquisitive reporter, starts chatting with his fellow travellers. One of them, a young woman, tells him that she was poisoned by Peter Lyman, a British aristocrat from a wealthy family, whom she suspects of being the Tarot Card killer, a serial murderer of prostitutes – called thus because he leaves behind a tarot card at each murder scene.

The next episode shows a beautiful young American student (a wannabe investigative reporter for a college paper), a slightly ditzy blonde called Sondra Pransky (played by the luscious Scarlett Johansson) attending a performance given by Sid Waterman, an American magician who calls himself “The Great Splendini”. Alas, this is pure Woody Allen.

Sondra is called up on stage for a magic trick involving a booth called “The Dematerializer”. While in there, Joe’s spirit materializes in front of her – apparently having mystically ‘tuned into’ the vibes she was ‘giving off’ as an investigative reporter! – and tells her the story involving Peter Lyman and urging her to investigate this further, because it will be the scoop of the year.

After some reluctance (entirely understandable, given that she has just encountered a ghost), Sondra and Sid decide to investigate the matter further. Fortunately, Sondra’s best friend in London comes from a seriously wealthy and snobby family, and thus Sondra finds her way into Lyman’s world, ‘arranging’ an ‘accidental’ meeting with him.

Handsome Peter Lyman (the seriously tall Hugh Jackman whom I will always associate with Wolverine of the X-Men) immediately falls for Sondra (or Jade Spence, as she now calls herself). She also pretends that Sid is her father, a wealthy newly rich oil baron from Palm Beach.

The relationship develops, with Peter genuinely falling in love with her, but Sondra struggling more and more to keep her two personas apart – the young girl who is starting to fall in love with Peter, and the reporter hungry to find out the truth. As Sondra wisely says at some time during the movie: “I’m a would-be investigative reporter who has fallen in love with the object of her investigation.”

Despite a plot with a few unexpected twists that did keep me guessing, it wasn’t a particularly good movie. Woody Allen was soooo irritating and whiny, rabbitting and jabbering on and on, that I frequently wanted to punch him just to make him shut up.

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Other movies we’ve watched in July:  

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