CIAO BELLO Alec Baldwin and Jesse Eisenberg star in Woody Allen's To Rome With Love
Credit: Philippe Antonello/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-

To Rome With Love
  • Movie
  • 112 minutes