In Magic in The Moonlight, Colin Firth stars as Stanley Crawford, a Brit who makes his living as a world-famous magician under the alter ego Wei Ling Soo. The film opens in Berlin in 1928, as Wei Ling Soo performs one of his beloved acts. Soon after, Stanley is met in his dressing room by his old friend Howard (Simon McBurney), who explains that he has failed at defrauding the beautiful, young psychic/clairvoyant Sophie (Emma Stone). Stanley follows Howard to the French Riviera, where Sophie has an elderly woman (Jacki Weaver) and her son (Hamish Linklater) convinced that she is communicating with their deceased father/son. While Stanley thinks he will instantly be able to uncover Sophie as a fake, the task proves to be much harder than he initially believed.
Woody Allen doesn’t make bad films. Even Allen’s weakest films, like 1987’s September and 2006’s Scoop, aren’t terrible; however, that doesn’t necessarily mean that all of Woody Allen’s films are good. To be honest, it’s far from that. Most of them usually range from mediocre (1991’s Shadows and Fog) to down right brilliant (1986’s Hannah and Her Sisters). His latest film Magic in the Moonlight, leans much closer to the former, far from last year’s masterful Blue Jasmine.
One of the film’s biggest problems is that it’s missing the “Woody Allen” character. Played so well by Cate Blanchett, Michael Caine, Owen Wilson, and Allen himself, the depressed, existential, neurosis-spewing character just isn’t present in this film. Allen tries to fill the role with Firth, but it just doesn’t click. It’s a lazy attempt to make Stanley this character, displayed by an out-of-place, awkward monologue.
While Firth doesn’t fill this essential role, it does not mean that he doesn’t give a great performance in the film. As per the usual, Allen is able to pull great performances out of his actors. Even in his worst films, the acting is great. Firth usually commands the screen in each of his films, but he is ever-so-slightly overshadowed here by Emma Stone, who is already an excellent young actress. While the pair is excellent, it’s a little tough to buy them as love interests.
The supporting cast – which also features the likes of Marcia Gay Harden, Eileen Atkins, and Jeremy Shamos – is superb. Unfortunately, most are them are given little to do and are mostly wasted. The great Jacki Weaver is the most underused ,as matriarch Grace. With just over ten minutes of screen-time, Weaver seems to show up whenever an empty joke is needed. It’s a bit upsetting that this two-time Oscar nominee can’t get better material than this.
While there are many faults in Magic in the Moonlight, the film is not without its charming moments. There are some very strong scenes, but they are greatly overshadowed by the weak ones. It’s worth seeing just for Emma Stone, who brings the magic to this otherwise flaccid film.