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Magic in the Moonlight (DQ)


Stars: Colin Firth, Emma Stone, Hamish Linklater, Eileen Atkins, Simon McBurney, Jacki Weaver, Marcia Gay Harden, Catherine McCormack, Ute Lemper

Director: Woody Allen

Woody Allen's latest is a sappy, if harmlessly mellow, romance (with nice music), set in 1926 and revolving round cynical Englishman Stanley (Firth), masquerading as Chinese magician Wei Ling Soo, who is asked by admiring fellow magician Howard (McBurney) to investigate and if possible debunk acclaimed spiritualist Sophie (Stone).

But Sophie, operating on the French Riviera, where she is chaperoned by her mother (Harden), captivates Stanley in no time and soon has him believing in the impossible.

Early scenes of Stanley performing his magic illusions are entertaining, but they soon give way to dreamy times on the Riviera, where the arch-sceptic finds himself reluctantly falling for the 'fake' medium he had set out to expose. His aunt Vanessa (Atkins) is more practical. 'You should consider joining the human race,' she advises him.

Like Firth's dazzling tricks, the film, bewilderingly given a 12A certificate, promises more than is actually there, and we need no hypnotism to feel sleep overwhelming our efforts to be as enchanted as our protagonist. Firth seems to be rehearsing for the next production of My Fair Lady, while Stone is miscast and all at sea in a role that needed a Katharine Hepburn.

Only Brit actor McBurney, with a droll American accent, catches the would-be roguish spirit of the thing.

David Quinlan

USA 2014. UK Distributor: Warner Brothers. Colour by deluxe.
97 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 14 Sep 2014