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Why Woody Allen's latest movie is scoring big

Woody Allen started making movies in the 1960s, and has more than 40 to his name. His films have been nominated for 20 Academy Awards, winning three.

But in recent years, Allen's releases haven't sold that many tickets, or satisfied all his fans.

That's apparently changing.

Allen has his biggest hit in 25 years in "Midnight in Paris." It may wind up as his biggest ever.

Why is it striking such a cord with audiences?

"It's sunny, it's warm, it's about Paris when it's at its most beautiful," observes Entertainment Weekly Assistant Managing Editor Jill Bernstein. "It something people just are drawn to, because they want to be entertained."

New York Times film critic A. O. Scott calls it "very much a Woody Allen movie, (starting with) the main character, played by Owen Wilson, who is kinda the chronic complainer in the Woody Allen mode."

"Wilson," Bernstein points out, "by Woody Allen's own admission, was a real departure for Woody Allen in casting: He was a surfer guy with blonde hair, and even Woody was wondering how is this guy going to fit as the lead of this movie. But he actually does a great job, because he can be slightly neurotic without making people uncomfortable."

Says Scott, "It's bringing a lot of people back into the fold who had been fans of Woody Allen, who were consoling themselves, watching the DVD of 'Hannah and her Sisters' or 'Crimes and Misdemeanors' over and over again, waiting for the next really, you know, fun, satisfying Woody Allen picture to come out."

Allen's films, notes "Early Show" co-anchor Jeff Glor, "have covered a broad spectrum, from slapstick comedies like 'Sleeper' and 'Love and Death' to the film that many call the modern standard for romantic comedy, 'Annie Hall."'

"I've probably watched 'Annie Hall' once a year, and it never gets old," says Scott, "or 'Purple Rose of Cairo,' or 'Zelig,' and you look at these 40 movies -- there's a pretty good proportion of them, that people are still going to be watching 20,30,40,50 years from now."

But not all are classics. Allen's also had his fair share of critical and commercial flops.

""The ones that tend to bother me more," says Scott, "are the ones from the past decade, where it just feels like it's kinda phoning it in and doing the same old stuff again and again - 'Whatever Works,' 'Curse of the Scorpion,' 'You'll Meet a Dark Tall Stranger."'

Allen drew great acclaim over the last decade with "Match Point" and "Vicky Cristina Barcelona."

Yet, like most Woody Allen hits, they failed to generate huge box office numbers.

"Hannah and her Sisters," his highest-grossing film, made just $40 million when it was released.

Now, "Midnight in Paris" is hitting home with audiences, on track to become Allen's most successful movie ever.

" 'Midnight in Paris,' says Bernstein, "is coming out during the summer movie season, which is filled, especially this year, with superheroes and huge special effects, and it's really smart counter-programming."

"Every element in it works together in this lovely, almost effortless way," Scott opines. "I guess, after you've made 40 movies, you kinda figure out how to do it!"

Allen has already announced his next film, which will be made this summer in Rome. It will star Allen, Penelope Cruz and Alec Baldwin.

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