After hitting up Barcelona, London & Paris for inspiration (and cheaper production costs), Woody Allen took his cinematic Cook’s Tour off to Rome . . . for rest & relaxation. While intersecting four or five regrettably pat tales-of-the-city comes easily to Allen, getting them up & running proves too much trouble. That generic title is the first clue that we’re on auto-pilot. And not even his; Neil Simon’s!, with a stale gag for every situation. But hang on, once past a comically arthritic Act One, with characters dumbed down to a tenth their normal IQ to facilitate the set up, the film comes up to a slow boil, turning pleasingly silly, even if it never makes contact with its location as Allen’s previous Euro-pics did. Depending on your taste & mood, about two-thirds of the sketches ‘land,’ with the locals coming off best: the tenor who only sings well in the shower (a wet recital is a hoot); Roberto Benigni getting 15 minutes of fame; a sexually charming hotel thief. The most daring idea has Alec Baldwin playing a sort of sometimes real/sometimes ectoplasmic mentor to Jesse Eisenberg.* A bewitching idea if you can tolerate Eisenberg, plenty annoying on his own, twice so filling in as a young Woody Allen. In fact, there’s a Woody Allen part in each of the sketches! Turns out, Roberto Benigni now makes a better Woody Allen than Woody Allen.
DOUBLE-BILL: *Baldwin’s role isn’t far removed from the ghostly Humphrey Bogart mentor of Allen’s PLAY IT AGAIN, SAM/’72. But since we’re in Rome, pair this with THE WHITE SHEIK/’52, an early Fellini that’s an obvious inspiration.