To Rome With Love

CIAO BELLO Alec Baldwin and Jesse Eisenberg star in Woody Allen's To Rome With Love

CIAO BELLO Alec Baldwin and Jesse Eisenberg star in Woody Allen's To Rome With Love (Philippe Antonello/Sony Pictures Classics)


To Rome With Love

Genre: Comedy; Starring: Woody Allen, Alec Baldwin, Penelope Cruz, Jesse Eisenberg, Ellen Page; Director: Woody Allen; Runtime (in minutes): 112; MPAA Rating: R; Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics

Woody Allen has entered a phase in which he seems less movie director than travel agent, dispensing scenic Euro vistas, new versions of old jokes, and his own version of storybook swag — ”fables” with all the depth of designer bonbons. In his latest picture-postcard comedy, To Rome With Love (four independent confectionary fables in one), Roberto Benigni winningly plays a humdrum citizen of Rome who discovers that he has inexplicably become Italy’s reigning reality TV star. Suddenly he’s a schmo whose every daily banality is treated with godlike awe. A retired opera director, played by Allen, arrives in Rome to meet his daughter’s future in-laws. He learns that the father-in-law-to-be (Fabio Armiliato) has a voice like Caruso’s — but only in the shower. So he arranges for the man to become an opera star by singing on stage in a working shower stall, a joke that’s sort of funny…at least the first time you see it.

Did I mention that there’s a character, played by Jesse Eisenberg, who nervously stammers, is an intellectual, and is hopelessly drawn to his girlfriend’s visiting free-spirited actress chum? She’s this year’s model of the Woody Allen crazy-sexy-neurotic temptress, only in this case she’s played by the birdlike Ellen Page, casting that feels about as convincing as the entire episode. (A plus: The name Kierkegaard is never uttered!) I may sound like I disliked To Rome With Love, but the truth is that Woody Allen has become such a beguiling travel agent that he rolls through these stories with a relaxed effervescence that is rather infectious. You don’t, after all, have to accomplish anything to enjoy a vacation. B-

Originally posted June 22 2012 — 12:00 AM EDT

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