September 17, 2014

Film Review: Magic in the Moonlight

 

Woody Allen’s latest is fun but predictable.

PHOTO COURTESY OF SONY PICTURES CLASSICS

Film Review: Magic in the Moonlight

Colin Firth and Emma Stone star in Magic in the Moonlight from Sony Pictures Classics.

If more top-flight directors cranked out material at the pace that Woody Allen does, audiences wouldn’t be subjected to drivel like Transformers: Age of Extinction. Even though Magic in the Moonlight isn’t on a par with some of the prolific director’s most acclaimed work, this film doesn’t deserve to be buried in the middle of blockbuster season.

Set in the south of France in the roaring '20s, Colin Firth is Stanley Crawford, a cynic who takes pleasure in the process of magic and even more in exposing its fraudulence. He also happens to be a stage performer who goes by Wei Ling Soo. After being dragged to Catledge Mansion, he meets Sophie Baker (Emma Stone), an American spiritual medium who has convinced everyone in sight that she is the real deal. We know that a cat-on-cat-and-mouse game will ensue between the two, with love triangles floating all around. It’s Woody Allen and its cinematic law. But the whip-crack smart writing and the general all-around lovable stage presence of Firth and Stone make this film more about the journey than the destination.

That’s also part of the problem with Magic in the Moonlight. Beautiful backdrops and likeable actors can only carry a film so far.

A key tenet in comedy is to give the audience what they want but not how they expect it. Allen’s failing is that the audience knows what’s going to happen and just about when.

Same goes for the characters. The actors are likeable based on their prior work and not particularly from this film. Firth has kept his good stage karma since Love Actually and Emma Stone is one film away from being completely type cast. The actress brings depth to her roles; it would be nice to some breadth. Most annoying about this film is the belief in a rational universe save for the heart wanting what the heart wants. Yet that yearning desire to break logic and rationality is strong enough to convince the audience.

Magic in the Moonlight is fun, but like To Rome with Love, wait for the Redbox.