"The heart wants what it wants," Woody Allen has taught us, and apparently what his heart wants these days is not to have to bother with writing second drafts of film scripts. His latest plays like a sumptuous vacation, its stars larking in '20s finery about the grandest estates of Provence and Côte d'Azur. Each frame is buttered by heavenly wealth -- the splendor is part Gatsby, part Mount Olympus from the original Clash of the Titans. But as the stars roam those gardens and vistas in their jaunty flapper couture, the story feels shapeless, un-tailored, defiantly off the rack.
Magic in the Moonlight's mystery is pedestrian and predictable, and its lovers -- Colin Firth and Emma Stone -- fall for one another for no reason other than they happen to be the leads in a Woody Allen movie. Firth plays Stanley, a famous but secretive stage magician, who thinks he's the only person alive notice that superstition is bunk and that there might not be a God. A magician friend (Simon McBurney) invites him to the home of some jillionaires to smoke out a comely medium (twinkly Stone) who seems to display miraculous gifts in séances -- and who is poised to marry the handsome heir to the fortune, despite being a Midwesterner with no pedigree. Can rational Stanley expose what must be a very clever fraud -- and preserve the class order?
Everyone declaims the film's meager themes, as if we're watching the actors' what's-my-motivation? prep work rather than their final performances. Even Stone and Firth speaking Allen's lumpish dialogue is something like getting down a mouthful of oatmeal.