Lowdown: A thrilling romantic comedy is hard to make.
Woody Allen's latest British production after his excellent Match Point is an attempt at creating a romantic comedy murder mystery thriller, and it not only sounds too good to be true; it is. Something just has to give, and actually more than one thing gives in to create a rather boring deliverable.
As Scoop starts, we are told of this very famous journalist who always had the scoop first and who has just died. Then we cut to a very Purple Rose of Cairo scene to see this journalist on a boat full of dead people and led by the angle of death. The dead start chatting with one another, and quickly enough our journalist learns that this notorious serial killer everyone is looking after is actually of prestigious nobility - Hugh Jackman. He just has to go back to tell the world of this scoop, and he actually manages to cheat death and come back for a brief appearance at the world of the living. Only that he makes his comeback before Scarlett Johansson, a lackluster American college journalist, while she's attending a show held by a lackluster American magician (Allen himself) in the UK.
Johansson grasps the opportunity to become famous through this world class scoop with both incapable hands, dragging Allen with her as she conducts her lackluster research on this crime. Quickly enough (and as can be expected) she falls for Jackman's charms, and we're left to wonder how this is going to turn out.
Only that it all turns out exactly the way you would expect it to, thus ruining the rather magical setup from the beginning of the film. Add to the mix a Woody Allen that plays a minor role but can't stop taking screen real estate and doesn't stop uttering his usual funny lines in a very out of place fashion, top it with a Johansson that tries her best to portray a lackluster dumb American chick that is totally out of place in the sophisticated UK but ends up delivering one of the worst performances I have ever seen in an A class film, and you end up with a film that is nice but far from exhilarating.
Don't get me wrong; there are nice ideas in Scoop aside of that ship of the dead. There's the usual Allen style trivializing of the big things in life, there's the Allen humor, and there's this confrontation between the simple American and the sophisticated yet corrupt Britain with its royalty and such. But it's all piled up on top of one another, and at the end all you remember is Johansson's performance and some of Allen's nonsense.
Funniest scene: The scenes where Allen can't get along with driving on the wrong side of the road are funny, but the best joke comes when he chats up this sophisticated British couple and tells them that he comes from a Hebrew culture but moved to narcissism instead. In one line, Allen captured exactly what went wrong with Scoop (but he also managed to be funny).
Picture quality: There's a significant color problem with this film. Everything just looks overcast! I can understand if this is to do with scenes of the English countryside, some of which were obviously taken under overcast conditions. I don't, however, understand when this happens during indoor scenes.
Sound quality: In typical Woody Allen fashion the soundtrack is mono. As I watched the film I could easily feel myself succumbing into the boredom that is induced by this so inglorious of soundtracks. I can sort of understand where Allen's coming from - he doesn't want you to be distracted by the sound - but in my opinion this is a stupid notion; reality is made of sounds, too. If anything, I find that a movie's sound quality is much more important than its picture quality when it comes to me being able to suspend my disbelief. The shame is doubled when considering that the soundtrack is made of audiophile quality classical music recorded by Chesky. This could have been a mesmerizing soundtrack! Such a shame.
Overall: Nice but badly integrated ideas. 2.5 out of 5 stars.