In terms of the amount of films released, Woody Allen is one of the most consistent directors in the business. Since 1982, the 78 year old has released at least one film every year. That’s an incredible feat, especially when you consider the fact that he writes all of his movies, as well as directs. Unfortunately, releasing this many films almost guarantees that some will be much better than others. Within the last three years, Allen has released both Midnight in Paris and Blue Jasmine, two films that arguably rank among his very best. His latest offering, Magic in the Moonlight, is a far cry below the heights set by those films. While some of Allen’s films have successfully broached mature themes, Magic is basically nothing more than a romantic period piece. This would be fine, except the film never rises above mediocre. It’s filled with some interesting characters and Emma Stone and Colin Firth are surprisingly great together, but even they can’t save the film from being an overall dull experience.

The year is 1928 and Stanley Crawford (Colin Firth) is a world renowned magician who performs under the alias of Wei Ling Soo. He’s an ill-tempered man that never seems to receive any enjoyment from life. An old magician friend, Howard Burkan (Simon McBurney), approaches him one day and asks for his help in exposing a young psychic named Sophie (Emma Stone), who has convinced a wealthy American family of her legitimacy. Crawford has never failed to expose a psychic in the past, but upon meeting Sophie, he just can’t seem to figure out how she does it. She claims to have contact with the spirit world and she successfully uncovers secrets about everyone surrounding her, Crawford included. Never believing that a medium like Sophie could exist, Crawford begins to question his outlook in life, just as Sophie begins to develop feelings for him.

Allan has been responsible for crafting some of the greatest movie romances, but there’s not much going on here. Take away the 1920s setting and the psychic aspect and you’re left with a straightforward and standard romance. Firth and Stone make the most of the material though, both putting in charming and charismatic performances. In real life, these two have an almost 30 year age difference, so the fact that they’re able to generate so much chemistry on-screen is a testament to their performances. The dialogue is sharp and snarky, generating some lightly funny moments that are able to distract from the film’s mostly uninteresting structure.

Even at a short 97 minutes, the film feels long and its second act drags on and doesn’t seem to go anywhere. Crawford stays with Sophie and the American family for quite a long time, but not enough reason is given as to why. Crawford also changes his mind about Sophie far too quickly and his reasons for doing so are thin at best. An explanation towards the end of the film did end up surprising me, but that’s basically the only unexpected event that occurs. This is typical rom-com formula and, while it does have some sweet moments, they’re few and far between. In comparison to some of Allan’s better outings, Magic in the Moonlight just lacks that magic touch.

Magic in the Moonlight receives 2/4

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