MOVIE REVIEW: Magic in the Moonlight

magic+in+the+moonlight+posterWednesday night at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany, the Wife and I went to see Magic in the Moonlight. There are still several films we want to see, but at 97 minutes, this was the shortest; when you hire a child watcher, time is definitely money.

I am a huge Woody Allen fan. Afterwards, I thought it was a better than OK movie, though my wife thought it lagged in the first half. Maybe it was that we’d see too much in the preview?

We knew that a magician, Stanley (Colin Firth) is brought to the south of France by his friend Howard (Simon McBurney) to try to debunk this American “mystic”, Sophie (Emma Stone), before she defrauds the Catledge family: mother Grace (Jacki Weaver, who for some reason reminded us both of Sally Struthers), smitten son Brice (Hamish Linklater), and daughter Caroline (Erica Leerhsen, with not much to do).

Much to the consternation/irritation of the arrogant Englishman with a dislike of spiritual claims, yet he has difficulty discovering how Sophie pulls off the ruse, if it IS a ruse.

Most of that I knew from the ads, and to say more would be a spoiler, except that whatever laughs to be had are in the second half, after all the above is established. Oh, and that the biggest delight of the movie is Stanley’s aunt Vanessa (Eileen Atkins) in a movie that also features Catherine McCormack as Stanley’s girlfriend, Olivia, and Marcia Gay Harden as Sophie’s mother.

A lot of the reviews were lukewarm towards the movie. Several critics made the similar pun/suggestion that the movie that was about sleight-of-hand was rather slight, and maybe that’s the issue. The film touches upon the issues of God, Nietzsche, and faith versus rationalism, yet perhaps isn’t substantial enough to bear the weighty topics.

I liked it well enough, particularly the period outfits and cars from the 1920s, and it has a suitable ending. But after seeing recent Woody movies such as Midnight in Paris and Blue Jasmine, this is clearly a lesser effort.

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