It seems in anticipation of criticism Woody Allen always has some comic relief ready. Before Match Point even came out he had Scoop in the can, and another project in development. Scoop is the comic antecedent to Allen's most serious film in over a decade. Critics seem to have grown overly tired of Allen's comedies, and some are still in contempt of his run of Small Time Crooks to Anything Else. However Allen is first and foremost a comedian, and when his jokes work, few people are funnier.
Scoop is possibly the best comedy Allen has made in years, it's certainly the funniest film I've seen from him in a long time. Allen seems to be knowing his age for once. He's still Woody, but he isn't kidding himself into being a ladie's man anymore, and that could have been a little disturbing with Scarlett Johansen as his costar. Here Allen's role is similar to his turn in Anything Else, that of an aging old showbiz man with little social grace. Like Anything Else, and most of Allen's contemporary work, he does seem a little out of touch, especially with the under-40 crowd, but he gets over this quick. He plays off of his social buffoonary as a wonderfully comic sidekick that comes off as a supremely embarassing "father" to Johansen's Sandra.
The film is Allen all over, his humor, his pacing, his obsession with the upper crust, his high brow pop culture, and of course his nihlism. At times this film seems like it might be as bleak as Match Point was, but with a sense of humor that was desperately lacking in his last film. There were a few people in the theater (the senior citizens mostly) who found the film downright hilarious, which lets me know that Allen's target audience is his own age, and I just don't know if he's aware of that. The dialogue is Allen through and through, and lines are delivered quickly, and both Johansen and Allen come off as Allen archetypes. Johansen is an Allen heroine much in the vein of Diane Keaton and Mia Farrow, beautiful, but seemingly unaware of their own charm. The type is a little tired, and the greatest fault of the film is that it seems to be treading on previous ground. Allen hasn't said much new in a long time, but it seems to be wasting breath to complain about it now.
The change from New York to London is a welcome one in his last two films. It helped to set Match Point apart, which I believe Allen desperately needed last year. For Scoop though Allen gets to use London for his own comedy, much like he used LA in Annie Hall. In fact the films last great punchline comes from his inability to adapt to driving in the left lane. He does however generally feel out of place when out of New York, but like anyone else, I suppose he needs a vacation, and it offers him some new opportunities here. His next still untitled film is being shot in London as well, and will complete an unofficial trilogy and most likely conclude this late revival of sorts. The film does seem fresh, as Allen's comedies usually do coming after something serious. The murder mystery here plays on some of the amateur detective work of films like Curse of the Jade Scorpion, with a blend of Hitchcock ala Suspicion. An overall enjoyable Allen film, that ranks among his better films, but far from his best.