There is breezy comedy to be made of a YouTube-age writer meeting the icons and idols of a bygone, classical era, but Allen goes deeper, expanding on his time-travel device to make unexpected and unexpectedly generous observations.
Having sampled London and Barcelona in recent films, Woody Allen continues his grand tour of European cities with Midnight in Paris, an ingratiating, tourist-oriented exercise in nostalgia for a city that doesn't exist.
This supernatural comedy isn't just Allen's best film in more than a decade; it's the only one that manages to rise above its tidy parable structure and be easy, graceful, and glancingly funny, as if buoyed by its befuddled hero's enchantment.
Allen seems to be paying attention in a way he hasn't always done in recent films, and has found a way to channel his often-caustic misanthropy, half-comic fear of death and anti-American bitterness into agreeable comic whimsy.
Pure Woody Allen. Which is not to say great or even good Woody, but a distillation of the filmmaker's passions and crotchets, and of his tendency to pass draconian judgment on characters the audience is not supposed to like.
Sweet, sentimental, and vibrant, Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris" rightfully points out that yesterday's frolicking bar might be today's laundry mat ... but we can always visit the good times in our memories.