Last summer's potently whimsical Midnight in Paris was Woody Allen's best-reviewed effort in decades and his highest-grossing film ever. Like Paris, his latest, To Rome With Love, which hits theaters Friday, is a veritable cinematic postcard comprising three vignettes that explore romance in the City of Love. Jesse Eisenberg, Alec Baldwin, Ellen Page, Penelope Cruz, and Roberto Benigni star. Are critics as charmed by it as they were by the Oscar-winning Midnight in Paris?
Not quite, but it's still good: The only unsatisfying thing about To Rome With Love is that it's not Midnight in Paris, says Stephanie Zacharek at Movieline. Paris was "rapturous, affirmative, and yet more than a little melancholic." With the "far less complex" Rome, Allen seems satisfied with "mere pleasantness," but that still makes for charming "breezy, stress-free" viewing. Penelope Cruz and Roberto Beningni are stand outs; she for her "exuberantly, cartoonishly sexy" performance, and he for resurrecting his career in a hilarious slapstick role.
"REVIEW: Woody Allen blows kisses to Rome, and maybe even us, in To Rome With Love"
It's aggressively mediocre: To Rome With Love falls well short of the standard set by Midnight in Paris, or even his previous anthology film, 1989's New York Stories, says Mary Pols at TIME. It's "lazy, frivolous filmmaking," aimless and all over the place — though peppered with scattered bursts of delight. Chief among those highlights: Alec Baldwin, whose sarcastic line delivery "is as crucial to the film as the golden light of Rome." Allen, too, is as sharp as ever in his return to acting. But the other actors are gravely miscast, and the flimsy plot too meandering. It's almost as if Allen shrugged his shoulders and said, "So sue me, I like Rome," and then decided to make a film.
"To Rome With Love: Woody's Roman Holiday"
It's not good at all: Allen's indulgent, late-in-life travelogue phase, says Joshua Rothkopf at Time Out, has been relatively easy to defend, given the vitality of recent films like Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Match Point, and Midnight in Paris. But To Rome With Love breaks the streak. The film elicits "an instantaneous cringe that never lets up." From Italians speaking in "no-so-good English" to a zany plot line involving an opera singer who can only hit his truest notes in a shower, too many embarrassing elements are "better suited to an Italian sex comedy." It seems mean-spirited to criticize a film that's "so essentially lighthearted and disposable," but Rome is a misfire.
"To Rome With Love"
Consensus: Though less ambitious than last summer's Midnight in Paris, the disappointingly slight To Rome With Love still has its diverting moments. Manage your expectations.