A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What 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.
- Parents say
- Kids say
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?
MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT is a trifle -- pleasing and 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.
Talk to your kids 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?
- In theaters: July 25, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: 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
- Last updated: March 13, 2020
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