SCOOP (Woody Allen). 96 minutes. Opens Friday (July 28). For venues and times, see Movies, page 107. Rating: NN
This weird, lightweight companion piece to Match Point, Woody Allen 's other English movie starring Scarlett Johansson , demonstrates that Allen can turn any actress into Louise Lasser (the second Mrs. Allen and his co-star in Bananas) in two pictures, tops.
Johansson stars as Sondra Praskie, an American journalism student who finds herself in London receiving tips from a dead journalist revealing the identity of "the tarot card killer." The dead journalist is played by Ian McShane ; after three seasons of Deadwood, it's remarkable that he can still get through a scene without calling someone a cocksucker. Sondra hooks up with magician Sid Allen) and goes off in pursuit of the suspect, a young nobleman played by Hugh Jackman .
Scoop is occasionally funny -- Allen can still write one-liners. But as in most of his movies since Deconstructing Harry, his last really good one, the director seems to be directing because it's what he does rather than because he needs to make a picture.
What he has are a bunch of second-hand ideas that don't necessarily work together, and a star or two who deserve far better material but keep working with him because of the prestige.
Johansson was much better as Match Point's vain little homewrecker than she is playing Scoop's archetypal Allen ditz.