by Duane Dudek, published on July 5, 2012 - 1:00 p.m.|
Woody Allen's new film "To Rome With Love" is as shallow as the water in the Trevi Fountain.
It wanders the winding streets of the Eternal City like a lost tourist, asking for directions but never finding its way.
It is not a Roman holiday, but an incoherent and incohesive travelogue through Allen's recent and classic past works. It is a pastiche of half-realized, overly familiar ideas thrown against the Coliseum wall to see what sticks.
Nothing really does.
It's not unpleasant - just Allen coasting through Europe on his reputation.
Allen previously visited England with "Match Point" and Spain with "Vicky Cristina Barcelona," and last year's "Midnight in Paris" was his most commercially successful film ever.
And each gave old fans a reason to rejoice and made new fans along the way.
Allen owes a debt to Italian director Federico Fellini, whose influence can be seen in his early films including "Stardust Memories," Allen's homage to "8 1/2 ."
So the Italian job should have been a slam dunk. Instead, it smacks of "Love, American Style."
"To Rome With Love" is an anthology whose various episodes are interspersed with each other but never intersect. They include: a young man in love with an inappropriate woman who gets advice from a phantom older man who did the same thing 30 years earlier; a newlywed mistakenly visited by a prostitute who then poses as his wife; a cubicle dweller who wakes up to find himself famous for no reason; and a cranky opera promoter, played by Allen, trying to turn a man who can only sing in the shower into a star.
Although Allen last appeared in one of his films, "Scoop," six years ago, he regularly recruited other actors to channel his stammering, hand-wringing neuroses. This time around, they include Jesse Eisenberg and Ellen Page as the young lovers, Roberto Benigni as the cubicle dweller and young Italian actor Alessandro Tiberi as the newlywed. Alec Baldwin's advice-giving phantom recalls Bogie in Allen's "Play It Again, Sam"; Penélope Cruz's kooky hooker resembles characters in "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger" and "Mighty Aphrodite"; and Benigni's everyman stalked by paparazzi is a shoutout to Fellini's "La Dolce Vita."
There is no method to Allen's madness in "To Rome With Love," but even Woody at half-mast is not without its pleasures.
This time, however, they are molto piccoli.
Critic's Rating: 2 1/2 stars