Love ignites the City of Lights’ magic in Midnight in Paris, the first Woody Allen film in forever to not wholly grate on the nerves. That status isn’t immediately apparent, however, as Allen’s latest opens with a beautiful if unimaginative day-to-night travelogue montage of Paris’ most famous sights (the Eiffel Tower! The Louvre! The Arc de Triomphe!) set to romantic horns, and then immediately segues into bald-faced audience-pandering via a conversation in which Hollywood screenwriter and aspiring novelist Gil (Owen Wilson) badmouths his future father-in-law’s (Kurt Fuller) Tea Party convictions as those of a “demented lunatic.” Amazing, then, that after such early missteps, the film takes a sweet, lighthearted turn once the nostalgic Gil – whose novel is about a man dreaming of the past – finds himself transported to his beloved 1920s Paris every night when the clock strikes twelve. This time-travel twist of fate puts him into contact with many of his artistic idols – including F. Scott (Tom Hiddleston) and Zelda Fitzgerald (Alison Pill), Ernest Hemmingway (Corey Stoll), Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates), Salvador Dali (Adrien Brody), Pablo Picasso, and Luis Buñuel – as well as Picasso’s mistress Adriana (Marion Cotillard), for whom he soon falls head over heels. Allen stacks the deck by both casting Gil’s fiancé Inez (Rachel McAdams) as his materialistic-harpy opposite, and by giving her a transparent perfect match in pseudo-intellectual blowhard Paul (Michael Sheen). Otherwise, though, his ode to Parisian romance and beauty, as well as to the beguiling allure of the past and yet the need to embrace the here and now, has a beauty (courtesy of Darius Khondji’s invitingly warm cinematography), a frothiness and a wink-wink sense of humor that’s enlivening, and in Wilson, he finds an on-screen proxy able to channel his anxious mannerisms and purpose-of-life hand-wringing without resorting to outright mimicry.