A new Woody Allen film at the start of the summer movie blockbuster season is, well, out of season.
Allen, who has virtually cranked out a film per year since long about 1969, used to release films with the predictability of falling leaves.
Just about when Allen's fans would be putting on their corduroys, a post-Memorial Day Allen film would be just around the corner on art cinema marquees.
That was back when Allen made nearly all of his films within walking distance of his Manhattan apartment.
He was in love with New York City and he told us so again and again and again.
In the past decade, Allen was off to London ("Match Point," 2005), Spain ("Vicky Cristina Barcelona," 2008) and infrequently and not altogether creatively successfully back in New York City ("You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger," 2010).
Now, he's singing a different tune: "I Love Paris in the spring time ..."
That brings us to writer-director Allen's latest, "Midnight in Paris," a delightful romantic comedy, which opens with a several-minute postcard-like montage of Parisian landmarks.
The film is a trifle, or perhaps more accurately, a truffle, albeit an entertaining and delicious one. It's Woody "lite" in the City of Light.
A successful Hollywood screenwriter, Gil, (Owen Wilson) is vacationing in Paris with his fiancee, Inez (Rachel McAdams), and her overbearing parents (Kurt Fuller and Mimi Kennedy).
Gil, despite the annoying tour-guiding of Paul (Michael Sheen), is attempting to finish his first novel when, what to his wondering eyes should appear but a big yellow vintage taxi, whisking him away and back through the decades to 1920's gay Paree.
There he encounters the lost generation, including F. Scott (Tom Hiddleston) and Zelda (Alison Pill) Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll), Cole Porter (Yves Heck) and less-famous, Adriana (Marion Cotillard), with whom he makes an acquaintance.
The window into the past becomes a door to a different future for Gil. Fiction is stranger than truth.
Wilson, in the ostensible role formerly played by Allen, keeps the body mannerisms to a minimum. There's a hangdog air of exasperation to Wilson's performance, replete with fluttery hand movements echoing the stop-start cadence of halting speech typical of Allen's dialogue writing. Wilson hasn't looked this frustrated since "Marley & Me" (2008).
The parade of historic figures from 1920s Paris, including significant American creative types (subject of historian David McCullough's latest book, "The Greater Journey") becomes a game of guess the Halloween party costume.
There's Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates), Pablo Picasso (Marcial Di Fonzo Bo), Salvador Dali (a quite fun Adrien Brody) and Luis Bunuel (Adrien de Van), to name-check a few.
When the time-traveling taxi takes Wilson and Adriana to the Belle Epoch, there's voila! Henri Toulouse-Lautrec (Vincent Menjou Cortes).
The device, like a cinematic Madame Tussauds Wax Museum of creative geniuses, is out-loud funny, but takes you right out of the storyline.
That said, "Midnight in Paris" is Woody Allen in muse mode, and that's quite amusing. Travel along for the ride. It's what the magic of movies is all about.
"Midnight in Paris," MPAA rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13) for some sexual references and smoking; Genre: Comedy, Fantasy, Romance; Run time: 1 hour, 40 min.; Distributed by Sony Classic Pictures
Credit Readers Anonymous: "Midnight in Paris" opened the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, the second Woody Allen film to do so, after "Hollywood Ending" opened the 2002 Cannes.
Box Office, June 10: "Super 8" unspooled $38 million, opening at No. 1, zooming past "X-Men: First Class," which dropped to No. 2, $25 million, $98.9 million, two weeks.
3. "The Hangover Part II," $18.5 million, $216.5 million, three weeks (year's biggest gross); 4. "Kung Fu Panda 2," $16.6 million, $126.9 million, three weeks; 5 "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides," $10.8 million, $208.7 million, four weeks; 6. "Bridesmaids," $10.1 million, $123.9 million, five weeks; 7. "Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer," $6.2 million, opening; 8. "Midnight in Paris," $6.1 million, $14.2 million, four weeks (Allen's highest-ever grossing weekend); 9. Thor," $2.3 million, $173.6 million, six weeks; 10. "Fast Five," $1.7 million, $205 million, seven weeks
Unreel, June 17:
"Green Lantern," PG-13: Ryan Reynolds stars as Hal Jordon, turned superhero with the special green ring. Martin Campbell ("Casino Royale," 2006; "The Legend of Zorro," 2005) directs Blake Lively and Peter Sarsgaard in the science-fiction thriller based on the comic book.
"Mr. Popper's Penguins," PG: Mark Waters ("The Spiderwick Chronicles," "Mean Girls") directs Jim Carrey as Mr. Popper and his six penguins. The fantasy comedy based on the Richard and Florence Atwater novel also stars Carla Gugino and Angela Lansbury.
Three Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes