Woody Allen has almost ritualistically made a new movie every year since the Johnson administration. With that kind of prolific output, there are bound to be some hits (Annie Hall, Hannah and Her Sisters) and some misses (Anything Else starring…Jason Biggs?). Unfortunately, his latest creation To Rome With Love falls in the latter category: all accordion music and Fiats, no substance.
It’s certainly doesn’t hold up to last year’s winner Midnight in Paris, which benefited from a creative script and a sigh-inducing slideshow of the City of Lights. Instead, Allen looks a little lazy with this loosely stitched anthology of four stories set across Rome, ranging from farce to straight-up fantasy. To start: An American architect (Alec Baldwin) revisits his past by following the ghost of his younger self (Jesse Eisenberg) into a love triangle, where Ellen Page is horribly miscast (or ironically cast?) as a sexed-up femme fatale. All handle Allen’s quick-witted dialogue nimbly, but it’s not enough to carry the film. Neither is Roberto Benigni, playing an average Roman who becomes an instant celebrity for doing nothing. Nor Penelope Cruz as a prostitute caught in a caper.
To Rome With Love certainly isn’t lacking star appeal. Even Allen makes it onscreen—his first appearance since 2006’s Scoop —as a retired avant-garde opera director in town to meet his daughter’s new fiance. It’s fun to see Allen neurosing all over Rome, but his own storyline is still just a one-note joke about convincing his daughter’s future father-in-law—a shy mortician with a gorgeous tenor voice, reserved strictly for the shower—to sing on stage. Can’t get the man out of the shower? Bring the shower on stage! Oy.
The light-and-frothy comedy continues to skip across Rome, from the Spanish steps to Trastevere to the Roman ruins, like a study-abroad student hopped up on cappuccinos, but the stories never intersect—despite the movie opening with a traffic cop at a busy intersection in Rome. I mean, really Woody? You open with an intersection, and there isn’t so much as a fender bender between the leads? Just seems like another missed opportunity.
To Rome With Love is in theaters July 6.