Woody Allen earned his most rhapsodic reviews in years and a career-best box office with 2011's “Midnight in Paris,” but Allen plays it safe and similar in “To Rome With Love,” a featherweight anthology of fantasias that begs for judicious editing or even radical cuts.
Given his near-constant output, it follows that not everything achieves canonical status in the Allen oeuvre, but that never makes it easy for fans, especially when recent works of subtle genius such as “Match Point” or “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” get followed by “Scoop” and “Whatever Works,” respectively. “To Rome With Love” is not in league with those other disappointments: It does not take a flame thrower to the good will generated by “Midnight in Paris,” but all four stories in this omnibus come across as minor ideas given far too much time and attention.
Each vignette comes powered by a whiff of mild magic, with the best story focusing on John (Alec Baldwin), a successful architect revisiting the Roman neighborhood where he lived after college. He runs into Jack (Jesse Eisenberg), whose life and romantic entanglement with two women (Greta Gerwig and Ellen Page) echoes John's younger days. Allen chooses not to carefully define what is happening in this section — it is left almost entirely to the viewer to interpret whether John is simply a wise older man who has literally and figuratively been there before, or if something more supernatural or dreamlike is taking place.
The balance of “To Rome With Love” consists of heavy-handed morality tales. Allen practically sleepwalks as Jerry, an opera producer who discovers a prodigiously talented singer but cannot bring him to the stage without some major engineering.
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‘To Rome With Love'
Starring: Woody Allen, Alec Baldwin, Jesse Eisenberg, Greta Gerwig, Ellen Page, Roberto Benigni. (Some sexual references)