The Movie Waffler New Release Review - To Rome With Love | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - To Rome With Love

Directed by: Woody Allen
Starring: Woody Allen, Penélope Cruz, Jesse Eisenberg, Judy Davis, Flavio Parenti, Roberto Benigni, Alison Pill, Alessandro Tiberi, Alessandra Mastronardi, Alec Baldwin, Carol Alt, Greta Gerwig, Ellen Page, Ornella Muti

Four comedic stories set in the Eternal City.
It's all too rare for a great artist to find an audience. It's even rarer for an audience to find a great artist but that's what happened last year when millions flocked to see Allen's previous film, the highly enjoyable "Midnight in Paris". How many of those cinema-goers actually enjoyed the film is debatable. I suspect many wrongly assumed by Owen Wilson's presence that they were in for a typical Hollywood rom-com (I recall watching "Melinda and Melinda" in a theater packed full of teenagers who couldn't understand why Will Ferrell wasn't making fart jokes.) Those fans of what is known as "mainstream" comedy (I know it as unoriginal, unsophisticated garbage) will likely be pleased by Allen's latest, a departure into a broader and bawdier style of humor unbecoming of the comic genius of our times.
The movie features four storylines, all of which begin promisingly enough but after a few scenes from each you quickly realise this is not the Allen we're used to. The biggest mistake is having all four run together as it means by the halfway point (of an incredibly long two hours, epic by Allen's standards) you've lost interest in all of them.
Benigni is an average Joe who one day finds himself swarmed by paparazzi. He's become an instant star, famous for being famous, and is subjected to public scrutiny and made to answer bland questions on tacky Italian TV shows. This story has a decent punchline but the journey there consists of dull scene after dull scene of Benigni's usual irritating shtick. 
The storyline featuring Allen himself is the most bearable, mostly due to his presence. He plays the father of Pill, who is marrying a young Italian man who Allen learns has an incredible singing voice but only while taking a shower. This develops into a Pythonesque over-played skit which somehow is stretched out for the entire movie. It's a three scene gag elongated to ten scenes.
The movie's handful of witty lines are divvied up between Allen and Baldwin who plays an architect dispensing advice to Eisenberg, a young student falling for Page, the pretentious actress friend of his girlfriend Gerwig. I was expecting some sort of a twist ending to this plot but it plays out to a climax so predictable you couldn't actually predict it. The worst part of this particular strand is Page, horrifically miscast as a "bombshell". Was Scarlett Johansson busy that week?
Worst of all is the fourth story-line, which sees a honeymooning young Italian couple separated, the groom having to pass off hooker Cruz as his wife while the bride finds herself in the arms of a randy actor. This plays out like an Italian version of a seventies British sitcom, devoid of any sophisticated wit or charm.
Allen keeps a drawer by his bed full of notes written on random pieces of paper which he sorts through when looking for the plot of his next film. It seems this time he found the four worst ideas but thankfully he used them all up in the one film. Up till now Allen has at worst been average but this is his first genuinely bad movie, not a bad record for over forty years of non-stop film-making. Ironically, those who usually despise Allen's films will probably be the ones who enjoy this the most. The rest of us will take comfort in knowing a Woody Allen comeback usually occurs every two years or so.