The Big Screen: Woody Allen's roman holiday is so-so

By Kevin VaughnSeptember 20, 2012 

In Woody Allen's nearly five-decade career, he has turned out about a film a year. They aren't all masterpieces -- not every drama can be a "Husbands and Wives" and not every comedy can be an "Annie Hall." But for a man who writes, acts in, directs and produces almost all of his projects, it seems almost impolite to write a negative critique when a film is just good.

"To Rome With Love" neither hits the crescendos of his last comedy "Midnight in Paris," nor the low-end like "Anything Else."

In "Rome," Allen is a retired opera director on his way to Italy with his wife (Judy Davis) to meet the Italian fiancé of his daughter (Alison Pill). He takes an immediate disliking to the fiancé, who is an extreme communist, until he meets his father, an undertaker who has the voice of Andrea Bocelli. Allen tries to record the man; his talents only extend to the shower.

This is one of four stories that intercut throughout the film; all take place in the City of Love. There is a pair of Italian newlyweds in Rome to meet the husband's family. The couple gets separated; the man is accidentally paired with a prostitute (a voluptuous Penelope Cruz) whom he must pass off as his wife to his family.

In another story, Jack (Jesse Eisenberg) is working as an architect and living with his girlfriend Sally (Greta Gerwig). Her friend Monica (Ellen Page) begins to pose a threat to the relationship. Alec Baldwin passes in and out of the film. He becomes the unwanted mentor to Jesse, warning the young man not to make the same mistakes he did. Principally, not to sleep with his girlfriend's best friend.

Italian actor Roberto Begnini stops by as an ordinary man, who for no conceivable reason becomes a target of the paparazzi overnight. The bit is novel at first, but quickly grows so tiresome that even Begnini doesn't understand what he's doing there. The rest of the film is good enough to make up for it.

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