At this point, I am almost certain that Woody Allen never sleeps. Ever since 2005, he’s been directing a new film every single year. In the traditional Woody Allen fashion, they usually fall into one of three categories, great, meh, or terrible. This year, Allen was coming off fresh from the success that was “Blue Jasmine.” When walking out of the theater I remembered hearing positive reception, claiming it to be one of his greats.  In order to top that, his next feature would have to deliver the same charm as before. While the premise had promise, “Magic in the Moonlight” unfortunately delves into forgettable territory.

World-renowned illusionist Stanley [Colin Firth] travels around the globe through the roaring 20s as Wei Ling Soo. At night, he performs as this character with enthusiasm. But once the lights go down and the makeup comes off, Stanley is a different being altogether. He likes to complain about the smallest little detail gone wrong. In his spare time, he also likes to debunk psychics, as he believes that they’re all fakes. When his best friend Howard Burkan [Simon McBurney] informs him that a psychic has been working for a rich family, he rises at the opportunity to prove that it’s all fake. This clairvoyant comes in the form of Sophie [Emma Stone], who puts Stanley through more than he could have ever expected.

Oh “Magic in the Moonlight,” how I really wanted to love you. While the end credits were rolling, The Colonial Theatre was full of people who were pleasantly satisfied with the film. I wish that I could have been one of them. Instead, I was trying to focus on where the story went south.

For a good hour or so, the set-up of this story actually held some weight. Trying to debunk a psychic sounded really fascinating, especially with the actors playing the protagonists.  Ever since his performance in “The King’s Speech,” Colin Firth has captured my undivided attention. Through most of his performances, he’ll bring this charm that makes him such a marvel to watch. Here, he’s no different. While starting off a bit bitter, his character does open up and gain more of a likeable personality.

This can all be attributed to the glowing performance by Emma Stone. Colin Firth needs somebody to work off of and she was the perfect casting choice. Allen likes to play on the mystery that she’s either the real deal or a fraud and for a while, it works.  As Stanley tries to get closer to the truth, the audience tries as well. Then the third act came along and everything went downhill.

Throughout the first hour, we see Stanley opening up to the possibility that she may be telling the truth. His lack of confidence in the search for truth kept me intrigued. But then, Woody Allen takes Stanley and Sophie and pushes their characters into a direction where they didn’t need to go. In my eyes, I saw it as unnecessary and forced. Then, just to throw more fuel to the fire, Firth and Stone begin to act out of character.

Everything leading up to then was leading to something light and fun. Despite the sloppiness of the third act, there are other things to marvel at. The lavish costume and set design were absolutely gorgeous to look at. If Allen would have filmed this in black-and-white, the film would have been passable for the 1920s.  Even the musical cues are enough to put a smile on a person’s face.

It seems that every time I list a positive, the third act always comes rushing back to mind. It’s a shame because I was invested in the plight of these two characters. I wouldn’t have declared it as one of the Woody Allen’s best, but it rode this consistent line. If someone is able to overlook the last third, then I could see how they would enjoy it. However, for me, this wasn’t the case as I can only recommend “Magic in the Moonlight” as a Redbox rental at the most.

Rating: C+

Matt Bilodeau can be contacted at

Share and Enjoy !