by Scott Wilson
The latest product of Woody Allen's one-man movie mill is called To Rome With Love, a title as insipid as anything that's wobbled off the Garry Marshall line in recent years. Don't be fooled: There are Olive Gardens that feel more authentically Italian than this shabby tourist trap. And uncomfortably like the overpopulated agent bait of Marshall's New Year's Eve and Valentine's Day, the action here plays like a Love, American Style marathon.
If you don't remember that show, an early 1970s syndicated time filler made up of witless blackout sketches where C-listers on the way down met future nobodies on the climb, well, that's good. It's one of the five programs you meet in TV hell, and your brain doesn't need that. But look it up on YouTube and you'll see something only a little more sexually baffled, woman-frightened and culturally reductive than To Rome With Love, yet another gorgeously lit and filmed Allen vehicle for which smart young actors (pity most Jesse Eisenberg and Ellen Page) have lined up to strand themselves in first-draft purgatorio.
And not even new first draft. Midnight in Paris, the 2011 movie that restored Allen's critical standing and delivered what for the 76-year-old director was a Pirates of the Caribbean-like box office, peered backward not only at a jazz-age Continent but also at the wistful time travel and magical realism of Allen's '70s short fiction. Again in Rome, Allen seems to have flipped through his bottom drawer for ideas (even as he pulls only from the top shelf for cast and crew).