Woody’s newest weak, but enjoyable

2012-07-09T11:58:00Z Woody’s newest weak, but enjoyableLinda Cook The Quad-City Times
July 09, 2012 11:58 am  • 

Even a weak Woody Allen script is better than so many other less witty projects. “To Rome With Love” is proof of that.

Even though the movie is uneven and not quite up to Allen’s par, I still laughed quite a few times and was impressed with its clever lines.

Obviously, Allen has combined several situations that might have made for better films if they had been developed on an individual basis. Compared to this fantastic “Midnight in Paris” and “Match Point,” this is a misfire.

But it reminded me of Allen’s beginnings as a standup comedian. His comments on everyday life were, and still are, hilarious, and he delivers some amusing and thoughtful one-liners here. Plus Allen himself appears in the movie — again, he’s a kind of neurotic Everyman. And he’s one of the most enjoyable parts of the show.

The movie centers on four separate stories, one of which is the romance of Jack (Jesse Eisenberg, “The Social Network”) with his girlfriend Sally (Greta Gerwig, “Arthur”). When her friend Monica (Ellen Page, “Juno”) arrives, he tempts fate by taking the attractive Monica, without Sally, on sightseeing adventures. In fact, Jack and Monica begin spending a lot of time together. On hand as a sort of conscience (perhaps, although this is never made clear) is Alec Baldwin, who dissects Monica’s conversation and repeatedly warns Jack of the threats that Monica presents.

Allen plays Jerry, a retired opera director who discovers that his daughter is marrying the son of a man who can sing beautifully … but only in the shower. Then there are the newlyweds Antonio (Alessandro Tiberi) and Milly (Alessandra Mastronardi) who become separated, only to discover that each will be tempted by another in a situation-comedy setup.

Roberto Benigni (“Life is Beautiful”) is a hapless working fellow who has a lot to say … except that no one seems to be listening to him. That is, until one morning he awakens to be swarmed by paparazzi, who ask him about his tastes in toast and other pointless information.

Not all of this works very well. The most puzzling scenes involve Baldwin, who seems to be visible at times but invisible at others. The humor remains intact in Allen’s sequences. And it’s especially fun to see Page and Eisenberg together again.

Is this a great movie? No. But it’s still a Woody Allen movie, and that’s enough for his fan base, which includes yours truly.

“To Rome With Love”

3 stars

Running time: One hour and 50 minutes

Rated: R for sexual situations and foul language

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