and limp: (l-r) Johansson and Jackman in Scoop.
by Woody Allen
Prior to seeing Woody Allenís newest movie, Scoop,
I thought its star, Scarlett Johansson, was among the most
overhyped, least charismatic young stars I had ever seen.
After seeing it, I realize that I was wrong. And Iím big enough
to admit it.
Scarlett Johansson is currently the most overhyped,
least charismatic young star I have ever seen. Oh. My. God.
She sucks. Simply, blatantly, embarrassingly atrocious.
There are so many things that can go wrong in a movie,
and in Scoop sheís all of them.
OK, that last is an overstatement: There are plenty of other
reasons to steer clear of Scoop: The plot is thin,
predictable and emotionally empty; the humor is all boilerplate
(Allenís nebbishy, stuttering shtick is so old that the only
way to appreciate it is by being grateful that at least he
hasnít hired Kenneth Brannagh to deliver it again); not one
actorónot even Deadwoodís deliciously Machiavellian
Ian McShaneóis used wisely or well. The list goes on and on.
Johansson plays Sondra Pransky, a college-aged journalist
wannabe, whose qualifications appear to be a pair of gold-rimmed
glasses (Hey, look, Iím acting! These arenít really my glasses!)
and a willingness to fuck subjects for an interview. Allen
is Sid Waterman, a low-rent stage magician. The two meet when
Sid calls Sondra up onstage as a volunteer during his act.
While hidden in a magic cabinet, Sondra is visited by the
ghost of deceased investigative reporter Joe Strombel (Ian
McShane). Joe has gotten an afterlife tip about the identity
of a serial killer and has decided to pass it on to a fellow,
and still living, journalist. Ambitious young Sondra seizes
the opportunityóall the more eagerly when the suspect turns
out to be a handsome, super-wealthy English nobleman (Hugh
Jackman)óand pulls Sid along for the adventure.
Itís painful even to recall the inanity of this movie. If
the primary relationship had been Sondra and Joe, that is
the living and the dead, there might have been some fun tension
and some of the college-dropout intellectualism that made
Allenís early work distinct and amusing. Plus, weíd have gotten
to see more of McShane than Allen or the totally limp Jackman.
If the filmís visuals, the pacing or the set design had in
any way been suggestive of a í40s-style madcap comedy, there
might have been some nostalgic fun. Had this movie starred
the young Bob Hope and Katharine Hepburn, say, it would have
had some charm. And thereís the rub: that damned cast, that
In fact, sheís so bad that Iíll go out on a limb and make
a prediction: Sheís going to be huge. Look out, Julia Roberts,
your vapid heir is apparent.
by John A. Davis
Ant Bully can be forgiven for displaying an occasional
similarity to those other insect animated flicks, Antz
and A Bugís Life. I mean, come on, how much mileage
can a filmmaking crew get out of, well, bugs? Comparisons
to those earlier movies are to be expected, but The Ant
Bully is a surprisingly sweet, unique story that can stand
on its own.
Based on the John Nickle book of the same name, The Ant
Bully is the story of little Lucas Nickle, a bespectacled
kid without a friend, who is victimized daily by a gang of
youth headed up byóyou guessed itóa big bully. Frustrated,
with nowhere to turn, Lucas turns his revenge on the ant colony
in his front yard, pelting it with the water from first a
squirt gun, then a hose, and even turning a magnifying glass
to it in order to incinerate the little critters. Meanwhile,
in said colony, the wizard ant Zoc (Nicolas Cage) concocts
a magic potion that, when dropped into a sleeping Lucasís
ear, renders the Ant Bully (known by the ants as Peanut the
Destroyer, after hearing Lucasís mom call him Peanut) the
size of his victims. Tables are turned when the ants bear
tiny Lucas to their Queen (Meryl Streep), who metes out an
unusual punishment: Lucas cannot return to his normal size
or to his home until he has become a member of the colony.
Zocís girlfriend Hova (Julia Roberts) takes on the task of
schooling a very unwilling Lucas in the ways of ants. This
also includes training with lead forager Kreela (Regina King)
and some humorous advice from lead scout Fugax (Bruce Campbell).
Director John A. Davis and his team of animators go to town
depicting Lucasí misadventures in terms of varying scope and
perspective. There are two epic and exciting battles. In one,
at the penultimate moment, in which a firecracker is about
to burst within the colony, the perspective suddenly changes
to an aerial view of Lucasís backyard, from which a piddly
poof of smoke arises. Itís disarming and wonderful at the
same time, far funnier than it would have been had we just
seen the direct effect of the blast.
Some readers may think Iím soft on childrenís movies. Perhaps
the idea that Iím keeping my own active boys quiet for the
length of a movie is enough reason for me to give the big
thumbs up to something. While nothing could be further from
the truth, I do admit that the reaction of my 10-year-old,
a real movie buff whose tastes run from the Lord of the
Rings trilogy to John Ford to anything with Cary Grant,
is sometimes quite telling, and with The Ant Bully,
he chuckled out loud a number of times and clearly seemed
to enjoy the show. The Ant Bully does not need to apologize
for anything. Itís a first-rate story, filmed imaginatively
with verve and humor, and as such, itís one of those rarities,
a movie thatís as good as its source.