Woody Allen’s latest offering, “Magic in the Moonlight,” is his 44th film and frankly, it seems that the master may be running out of ideas. Those familiar with Allen’s earlier work, including his 1986 classic “Hannah and her Sisters,” will pick up on familiar themes such as faith vs. skepticism and that old Allen stand-by: unexpected May-December romances. Unlike Hannah, however, Allen doesn’t actually appear in this movie, but the protagonist, 1920s magician Stanley Crawford, is clearly a stand-in for him.
Despite the fact that Crawford makes his living-and a very good one at that-tricking audiences with complex illusions under the guise of a Chinese master he is skeptical about all things related to religion or the supernatural: he knows better than most that seeing isn’t always believing. Thus, when a fellow magician gives him the opportunity to investigate a young American medium named Sophie Baker and prove her a fraud, it’s too good of an opportunity for him to pass up.
Despite some snappy dialogue, beautiful French countryside scenery, and a cast of talented actors including Colin Firth and Emma Stone in the respective roles of Stanley and Sophie, “Magic in the Moonlight” nonetheless falls flat. While the movie isn’t bad, it lacks the pizzaz of Allen’s earlier work or even his recent triumphs such as last year’s “Blue Jasmine,” which proved that characters didn’t have to be likeable or relatable to be memorable. Plus, it’s hard to imagine an earlier era Allen choosing this too-neatly-wrapped-up-ending.
Nonetheless given the dearth of good movies at this time of the year, it’s possible to do worse.