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Woody Allen’s latest, ‘Magic In the Moonlight,’ rings false

When you make as many movies as Woody Allen does (42 to date), and as rapidly as he makes them (nearly one a year), the film quality gets very hit and miss.

Just last year, he made one of his best ever, “Blue Jasmine,” a brilliant gloss on “A Streetcar Named Desire.” So, it should come as no surprise that his latest – by comparison – is a disappointment.

Whereas “Jasmine” was jagged and clear-eyed and contemporary, “Magic in the Moonlight” is smooth and gauzy and nostalgic.

“Magic” is set in the south of France in the 1920’s. Colin Firth plays a world-famous magician who prides himself on being able to expose the fraudulence of psychic mediums.

As a magician, he thinks he knows all the tricks of the trade, so when he’s invited to meet a psychic who’s amazed and charmed by everyone she’s met, he’s more than up for the challenge. But then so is this psychic, played by Emma Stone.

It’s very snappily written: the words that come tumbling out of Firth’s mouth are as eloquent as his impeccable delivery and Stone has plenty of snappy retorts to Firth’s dismissals of her.

Their verbal tennis match eventually gives way to broader concerns. Themes of love, rationality, deception, and yes, magic, rise to the surface. How these notions impact our lives, especially our personal relations, is the real subject of “Magic in the Moonlight.”

But as rich as this material might have looked on paper,
on the big screen, it plays overly broad. We either watch a pompous man get his comeuppance or see a charlatan get hers. And then it’s all wrapped up with a resolution too pat to be believed, or even wished for.

“Magic in the Moonlight” may be thematically true but psychologically, it rings false.

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