Some directors are just so damn prolific that you just have to brace yourself for a higher than average hit/miss ratio. As he steam rolls at a movie a year clip towards his 80th birthday, Woody Allen still has some charm left in the tank as "Magic In The Moonlight" is an understated but solid little comedic romp that shines thanks to some strong comedic performances.
It's the 1920's in the south of France and a swindle is a foot and Stanley aka The Great Wei Ling Soo; world famous magician and coldly logical debunker of myths (Colin Firth) is recruited to prove a supposed mystic who can talk to the dead (Emma Stone) to be a fraud as she works her magic on a wealthy family willing to fund her psychic research. Little did he know the further he goes into her tangled web of lies, the more he realizes that he just may have found the woman of his dreams.
While it isn't exactly one of his flashier efforts, "Magic In The Moonlight" has an understated charm as Allen doesn't over direct the story and gets some charming and natural performances that you can't help but fall in love with.
Allen who is still on a strong European kick despite moving back States side for "Blue Jasmine" last year has the perfect setting the south of France for a strong comedic love story. It flows with absolute ease and after some quick establishing action it gets us to the south of France for the bulk of the action. The dialogue is sharp but not forced as it isn't the kind of comedy where Allen is trying to set up a variety of different comedic bits or gags and it has a very natural flow about it, for the most part because Allen seems to stay out of the way of his two leads who genuinely carry the whole thing.
Colin Firth is his standard fantastic self as the increasingly romantically befuddled Stanley. As he sees his logic fail him, we all get roped into the potential romance. He can do dead serious, or dead pan funny and it is nice to see him execute the dead pan British wit that he displays in interviews during the course of a film. Emma Stone simply doesn't get enough credit for being unabashedly awesome. With a sense of comedic timing that you couldn't teach someone if they tried. She knocks it out of the park with a performance that equal parts vulnerable ingénue and sly, street wise con artist. Even though she is doing something horrible, she is always loveable and her only genuine trick is the charm she has on full display for the entire audience. With Hamish Linklater, Eileen Atkins, Simon McBurney, Catherine McCormick, Marcia Gay Harden & Jacki Weaver rounding out the ensemble it is truly solid from top to bottom and it is held together very well thanks to our amazing leads.
"Magic In The Moonlight" isn't going to be one of those long beloved Woody Allen efforts when all is said and done but it is a very pleasant one, and sometimes that is more than enough.
3 out of 5 stars.
"Magic In The Moonlight" opens in Toronto and Vancouver this Friday, rolling out across the country on August 8th.