When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
Writer-director Woody Allen's latest film, "To Rome With Love," rewrites that sage advice, to wit: When in Rome, do as the Americans do.
Allen has assembled an international cast for the generically-titled "To Rome With Love" (not to be confused with the 1969 - ' 71 TV show starring John Forsythe), his latest romp through European capitals following, "Midnight In Paris" (2011), which grossed $56,473,065 and received an original screenplay Oscar.
"Midnight In Paris" was the biggest Allen written and directed hit since "Hannah and Her Sisters" (1986), which grossed $40,084,041; "Manhattan" (1979), which pulled in $39,900,000; and "Annie Hall" (1977), which tallied $38,251,425.
A Woody Allen written and directed feature film used to be as anticipated as the falling leaves. Now that Allen's films are largely European-financed, they are not always set in New York City and appear willy-nilly, often in -- perish the thought -- the middle of summer, and not during fall's so-called serious season for adult movie-goers and Oscar-contending films.
It's a smart move. "To Rome With Love," as with "Moonrise Kingdom," provides adult movie-goers cool counterprogramming to the onslaught of teen and young adult-audience summer blockbusters.
Allen's typical acerbic "To Rome With Love" screenplay takes a swipe at this core Hollywood studio demographic with a reference to "those pretty boys who make those comic-book movies."
"To Rome With Love," an often amusing film with mostly two-dimensional characters, is a comic-book movie for adults. At its center is a hilarious gambit involving an Italian funeral director who sings opera in his shower that builds up to one of the funniest Allen sight gags since his "Sleeper" (1973).
"To Rome With Love" has elements of Federico Fellini's "8 1/2" (1963). In Woody Allen's hands, it's more like "7 ."
Essentially, "To Rome With Love" is sketch comedy, and the storylines are a little sketchy. The concept allows Allen to page through his well-worn joke book in which "Leper Colony" is still a punch line.
"To Rome With Love" harks back to the off-hand ease of Allen' s "A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy" (1982), as Allen juggles, sometimes successfully, sometimes not, at least five storylines. Not necessarily in the order of importance, there are:
Hayley (Alison Pill), who falls in love with Michelangelo (Flavio Parenti);
Hayley's parents, Jerry and Carol (Woody Allen and Judy Davis, respectively), who have some of the film's funniest lines;
Milly (Alessandra Mastronardi), on her honeymoon with Antonio (Allesandro Tiberi);
Antonio's father Giancarlo (opera tenor Fabio Armiliato);
Jack (Jesse Eisenberg), who lives with Sally (Greta Gerwig);
Monica (Ellen Page), an out-of-work actor on vacation;
Leopoldo (Roberto Benigni), who becomes famous for no apparent reason;
Anna (Penelope Cruz), a prostitute who seems to know every wealthy man in Rome, in the Biblical sense, and
Luca Salta (Antonio Albanese), an Italian movie star,
The American actors more or less act as we're accustomed. The Italian actors speak in Italian (with subtitles).
Lurking in the magic-realism background with a purposeful pout is Alec Baldwin as John, an architect on vacation. His placement in the film is odd. He's a one-man Greek, or rather, Roman, chorus, looking like he'd rather be playing "Words with Friends."
While "To Rome With Love" is not major Woody, even a minor Woody Allen comedy is a welcome relief at the cinema, especially in the multiplex summer. It's a postcard from Rome with laughs.
"To Rome With Love," MPAA Rated R (Restricted. Under 17 Requires Accompanying Parent Or Adult Guardian) for some sexual references; Genre: Comedy; Run time: 1 hr., 52 min.; Distributed by Sony Pictures Classics.
Box Office, July 13: "Ice Age: Continental Drift" melted away the competition, opening at No. 1 with $46 million, deposing "The Amazing Spider-Man," $35 million, $200.9 million, two weeks;
3. "Ted," $22.1 million, $158.9 million, three weeks; 4. "Brave," $10.6 million, $195.5 million, four weeks; 5. "Magic Mike," $9 million, $91.8 million, three weeks; 6."Savages," $8.7 million, $31.4 million, two weeks: 7. "Madea's Witness Protection," $5.6 million, $55.6 million, three weeks; 8. "Katy Perry: Part of Me," $3.7 million, $18.5 million, two weeks; 9. "Moonrise Kingdom," $3.6 million, $32.4 million, eight weeks; 10. "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted," $3.5 million, $203.7 million, six weeks
Unreel, July 20:
"The Dark Knight Rises," Rated PG-13: Writer-director Christopher Nolan completes his trilogy ("The Dark Knight," 2008; "Batman Begins," 2005), directing Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne-Batman, who returns to protect Gotham after he took the rap for Dent's crimes. The stellar cast includes Liam Neeson, Michael Caine, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman, Marion Cotillard and Anne Hathaway (Catwoman). The screenplay capitalizes on Bane (Tom Hardy), said to be one of the series' best villains.
Read previous movie reviews by Paul Willistein at the Times-News web site, tnonline.com where the movie reviews are archived. Email Paul Willistein firstname.lastname@example.org  and on Facebook.
Three Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes