Magic in the Moonlight

 
(i)

 

Mostly mild 1920s-set Woody Allen comedy has charisma.
  • Review Date: July 25, 2014
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 2014
  • Running Time: 97 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Sometimes the best things in life are those you can neither see nor explain.

Positive role models

Though Stanley is a skeptic, he opens himself up to a new adventure. The most appealing person in the cast is Stanley's Aunt Vanessa, who, wizened by age, has learned not to make absolute statements because life isn't absolute. Stanley's use of a very stereotypical Asian persona for his performances would be seen as inappropriate today but was in line with 1920s trends.

Violence

A mild-mannered confrontation between friends is as heated as it gets.

Sex

A few kisses and a suggestive comment.

Language

Some mild insults, including "wretch" and "moron." Also "hell."

Consumerism

Though no labels are seen, there's some discussion about what money can buy, and a rich young man shops often for his fiancee, showing off his wealth.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Period-accurate smoking. Adult characters drink cocktails in social settings.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Magic in the Moonlight sticks pretty closely to the typical Woody Allen comedic formula, with an incongruous pairing and characters tossing bon mots and waxing philosophical in a lovely location (this time, the south of France in the 1920s). Teens may be intrigued by the casting of Emma Stone, but some of the themes/plot threads -- the existence of God and an afterlife, the possibility of true love -- are a little mature (and likely uninteresting) for younger viewers. There's little mild swearing ("hell") and some sharp insults. Expect period accurate smoking and drinking, some kisses, and a suggestive comment or two. The main character, a Caucasian man, performs using a broad, dated stereotypically Asian persona, a practice that would be seen as inappropriate today but was in line with 1920s trends.

What's the story?

Stanley Crawford (Colin Firth) is a famous magician and illusionist (his stage persona is Wei Ling Soo) who's recruited by an old friend (Simon McBurney) to help unmask a possible psychic imposter, the charming Sophie Baker (Emma Stone). Sophie and her mother (Marcia Gay Harden) are guests of the very wealthy Catledges, and Brice Catledge (Hamish Linklater) is set on marrying her. Stanley thinks Sophie is a fraud and tries to expose her, but he winds up exposed himself, after a fashion.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT is a trifle -- pleasing, yes, and certainly full of charm, but it doesn't hold a candle to director Woody Allen's meatier films, like Crimes and Misdemeanors or even Midnight in Paris.  We've seen this plot before, in other Allen movies: opposites attract, with the male protagonist a skeptic and a neurotic who finds himself enlivened in the presence of a beguiling young woman he can't quite understand.

Nevertheless, Stone makes a perfect beguiling young woman, with big eyes and sass, a 1920s ingenue with a backstory. Firth is great too, all pomp and know-it-all hiding a surprisingly soft center. But the one who holds our gaze the most is Eileen Atkins; as Stanley's Aunt Vanessa, she steals the show, full of grace and wit and easy wisdom about how life surprises and love conquers. Though Stanley postures a lot about the meaninglessness of it all, Magic in the Moonlight, swathed in cynicism it may be, could be one of Allen's most romantic movies.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how Magic in the Moonlight depicts faith and belief. How do the characters feel about the subject? Do they change their minds? Why or why not?

  • Allen's movies are said to be fairly similar to one another. How does this one compare to his others? Does he have different themes/types of movies in his canon?

  • Is it OK to include smoking in a modern movie that happens to be set during a time when it was common practice? What impact could that have on viewers?

  • Is Stanley's stage persona, Wei Ling Soo, stereotypical? Is it OK to include this in the movie since it's set in the 1920s? How would reaction to it be different today?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:July 25, 2014
DVD release date:December 16, 2014
Cast:Emma Stone, Colin Firth, Marcia Gay Harden
Director:Woody Allen
Studio:Sony Pictures Classics
Genre:Comedy
Run time:97 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:brief suggestive comment, and smoking throughout

This review of Magic in the Moonlight was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Teen, 15 years old Written byJflores14 September 1, 2014
 

Quirky woody Allen film is surprisingly funny

This romantic comedy is filled with sly humor and romance. Teens may like it, but young kids will be VERY BORED! Content: Violence: none Sex: reference to sodomy and affairs Language: hell and damn Smoking: lots PG: for brief sexual reference, smoking throughout, and mature themes
Adult Written byBestPicture1996 August 23, 2014
 

Firth's cynicism and Stone's sparkle make movie magic

While this is certainly not a great follow-up to last year's "Blue Jasmine," "Magic in the Moonlight" is an adorable film in its own rights, and this rests mostly on the chemistry between the two. That said, while I like their chemistry, the thought of them being a couple is pretty strange, even by today's standards; he's over 50 and she's a quarter century. Allen's dialogue still shines through, with some wry British wit thrown in. It's really a cute period piece that does make you think about what one is willing to believe in.
Kid, 12 years old June 17, 2015
 

Just plain...

terrible

Poll

Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Digital Compass