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Film review: ‘Magic in the Moonlight’ lacks the spark of Allen’s finest work

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Despite some seriously cute faces from Emma Stone (and some seriously dour ones from Coin Firth), there really isn’t much magic in Woody Allen’s newest comedy, Magic in the Moonlight.

Two and a half stars

Magic in the Moonlight Colin Firth, Emma Stone, Eileen Atkins. Directed by Woody Allen. Rated PG-13. Opens Friday.

Woody Allen’s best movies over the last decade have generally been serious dramas (Match Point, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Blue Jasmine), while his comedies (including Scoop, Whatever Works and To Rome With Love) have mostly been limp and underwhelming. Magic in the Moonlight continues that trend, delivering wan comedy and a mediocre romance, featuring two leads without any chemistry.

The best thing about the movie is its setting, on the French Riviera in 1928. The scenery (shot by cinematographer Darius Khondji) and the costumes are absolutely lovely, as is Emma Stone as possibly fraudulent medium Sophie Baker. Colin Firth is less appealing as stage magician Stanley Crawford, hired to debunk Sophie’s supposed powers and break her influence on a wealthy American family. Naturally, the dyspeptic Stanley and the wide-eyed Sophie fall in love, despite their enormous age difference and incompatible personalities.

Allen may be more comfortable with the past than the present these days, but nearly everything about Magic in the Moonlight is unconvincing, from Stanley’s supposed religious conversion to Sophie’s crush on the man who insults and belittles her. The movie has occasional sparkles of wit, but most of it is flat and sour.

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