UK Release Date: 19th September 2014
Runtime: 98 minutes
Director: Woody Allen
Writer: Woody Allen
Starring: Colin Firth, Emma Stone, Simon McBurney, Hamish Linklater, Jacki Weaver, Eileen Atkins
Synopsis: An illusionist travels to the South of France to debunk an impressive young medium who is living with a wealthy American family.
In the late stages of his illustrious filmmaking career, Woody Allen is still producing a movie every single year. His 46th feature as director, Magic in the Moonlight, is a sun-baked tale of a skeptic being brought round to the supernatural when he is tempted by an attractive young medium. It’s as light as a soufflé, but packs plenty of warmth and wit.
Stanley (Colin Firth) is one of the world’s most famous stage magicians under the Chinese alias Wei Ling Soo and a huge debunker of paranormal charlatans. One of his illusionist friends (Simon McBurney) introduces him to supposed medium Sophie (Emma Stone), who has charmed a young man (Hamish Linklater) and his extraordinarily wealthy family.
Magic in the Moonlight does not take a seat within the pantheon of Woody Allen’s greatest comedies. It doesn’t match up to recent successes like Midnight in Paris and Blue Jasmine, but it’s a charming and funny film that showcases the best conventions of the Allen canon, from idyllic settings to self-aware dialogue.
| "You’re born, you commit no crime, and then you’re sentenced to death."
Colin Firth is suitably brittle and cynical as magician and skeptic Stanley. His jaded worldview comes across throughout, rewarding Firth with many of the script’s funniest lines. His character’s progression is believable as the film winds towards its climax, even if the final twists and turns are a little disappointing.
Emma Stone is excellent as the wide-eyed medium who wins Stanley’s intrigue, and later his heart, with her beguiling predictions. Her trademark quirky cuteness gives the character a mysterious aura that suggests she could be everything that she claims to be.
Magic in the Moonlight suffers from being a little too light. Whilst it’s entertaining and amusing on the surface, it’s noticeably lacking in any depth or substance. The stakes are never very high and it doesn’t really seem to matter how it all pans out.
| "All of my optimism was an illusion."
There’s also a number of problems with the dialogue. The laughs do come thick and fast, but a lot of the speech is completely different to anything that a normal human being would say. A lot of the time, it feels as if Colin Firth is quoting from a novel rather than engaging in conversation.
It seems churlish to complain that the film isn’t quite meaningful enough, given that it works so well as a piece of light entertainment. The primary purpose of Magic in the Moonlight is to make the audience laugh and smile. It certainly achieves that.
Pop or Poop?
As Woody Allen continues with the rich form of his recent career, Magic in the Moonlight is a very entertaining little comedy that benefits from an idyllic European setting.
Colin Firth and Emma Stone anchor the story with great performances, delivering Allen’s quips with the aplomb and gusto that they deserve.
Magic in the Moonlight is frothy and as light as a feather, but it packs real wallop in the humour stakes.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.