"(PG-13) Two and a half stars

Put the drumsticks aside in lieu of there being no drumroll necessary. Scoop, Woody Allen’s newest work since the critically acclaimed (but for this reviewer underwhelming) Match Point, is at best an amusement in filmmaking. Scoop is less satisfying than Match Point — mostly because Allen himself has a starring role.

Maybe it’s just an aesthetic problem: It’s the old school vaudevillian shtick that offends. But it’s always awkward when Allen is simultaneously advancing a plot (in this case, a metaphysical crime thriller) and stalling the plot to perform little magic tricks and comic routines. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

In the meantime, perfectly talented actors (in this case, Scarlett Johansson, Hugh Jackman and Ian McShane) have to stand around and wait for the stutterings to come to an end before uttering their next line. The actors do well — Jackman is particularly good — but the film hums along best when it’s most efficient; i.e. when Allen cuts to the punch line with 30-50 percent less bobbing, shaking, sputtering, etc.

It is nice to see Allen get out of the U.S. again — as with Match Point the story is set in London — and he manages to mine comic gold from the situation. In fact, one nugget is, despite its obviousness, sheer, vintage-Allen brilliance. I would give it away, if it weren’t for the fact that there are far too few such moments.

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