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Meh in the Moonlight 

Woody Allen's Magic in the Moonlight is a summer snooze

Yes, Magic in the Moonlight, Woody Allen's duller-than-driftwood summer comedy has ample moonlight over the French Riviera; but alas, it has less magic than a sleight-of-hand card trick. And "sleight" is about as much praise as I can muster for this movie, which lands in the bottom tier of Allen's films and ranks somewhere among his other duds like Hollywood Ending (2002), Anything Else (2003) and 2009's Whatever Works (2009). What? You haven't heard of those? My point exactly.

This is sad to report, considering that Colin Firth and Emma Stone do their darndest to hold up this pup tent. Firth plays Stanley Baker, a snobby, one-dimensional genius with "all the charm of a typhus epidemic." Stanley is asked to travel to the Cote d'Azur to unmask the gimmickry of a mystic, Sophie Baker (Emma Stone), who, according to an acquaintance, is about to bilk Stanley's extremely gullible friends and family out of their fortunes. On paper, the set-up sounds like it should work nicely for a light comedy. Unfortunately, the execution is meandering and, quite often, frustrating. During my screening of Magic in the Moonlight, I heard some boob across the aisle say that the movie reminded him of The Great Gatsby. Not likely. Just because Magic has croquet mallets, wingtip collars and a jazz-age soundtrack, it is not great and is certainly no Gatsby. In fact, the costumes in Magic look exactly like... well... costumes. More importantly, the characters seem to be not listening to one another and are instead simply waiting for the other to stop talking before they recite their lines. Hardly anything warrants belief in this mess.

Woody Allen's weakest films--this movie among them--seem to be constructed more as plays than motion pictures, and Magic in the Moonlight is a mediocre play at best. It establishes artificial tension in the first act by leaning too heavily on a supporting cast to build up the arrival of Sophie. As a result, her character is pre-defined, leaving little to the imagination--pity for Stone, usually a fine actress, who is given a paper doll of a role.

When Magic in the Moonlight's big surprise is revealed late in its third act, it doesn't turn on a dime; it turns on a ha'penny in a clunky bit of clumsiness.

Suffice to say, Mr. Allen should know better and here's hoping you'll know better than to pay full admission. Go see Boyhood instead. If you've seen Boyhood, see it again.

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