In his follow-up to the fantastic 'Midnight in Paris', Woody Allen heads southeast from the city of light and lands in the eternal city, Rome. Here, he presents four different stories, mixed together throughout the movie, but not connected to each other (lest one think he or she is in for another film where characters from one story thread cross paths with those in another). Two of the tales are told primarily with English-speaking actors, while the other two showcase Italian-speaking roles (with English subtites).
Allen himself stars alongside Judy Davis as the parents of a young American (played by Alison Pill) who has become engaged to a local Italian (Flavio Parenti). Allen's character is upset that his daughter hasn't found someone from a rich family to marry, but rather the son of a local mortician (Fabio Armiliato). But when he hears the mortician singing in the shower, he changes his mind and hatches a plan to turn the undertaker into a global singing sensation.
In one of the Italian-spoken stories, Antonio (Alessandro Tiberi) has recently married Milly (Alessandra Mastronardi) and is intending to introduce her to relatives at a hotel where the newlyweds are staying. Milly gets lost trying to find her way back to the hotel, while Antonio gets a visit from an escort (played by Penélope Cruz) right at the same time his relatives show up at the hotel. Naturally, Antonio's relatives think the escort is Milly, and Antonio has to play along, lest his family think he's been with a prostitute. We've seen plots similar to what happens here in many other movies, and this turns out to be the most predictable and, therefore, the least entertaining of the movie's four stories.
In the other Italian dialogue tale, Oscar winner Roberto Benigni plays a man who is as common as someone could get. He's got a wife, two kids, and gets up every morning at 7am to have the same breakfast and go off to the same mundane job. However, one day – for no particular reason – everyone starts paying attention to him. He's mobbed by photographers and press, and he's suddenly become the most popular man in Rome. There's not much of a smokescreen here from Woody Allen. Roberto's story is obviously a comment on the ridiculousness of fame and how insane (and fleeting) it can be.
Finally, the most interesting story in 'To Rome With Love' begins with Alec Baldwin playing John, a middle-aged man who has returned to Rome on vacation with his wife, but takes some time alone to visit an area of the city he lived in when he was a young man. While there, he crosses paths with Jack (Jesse Eisenberg), who reminds John very much of himself when he was younger. Jack is staying with his girlfriend, but finds himself being drawn to one of her best friends (played by Ellen Page) when she arrives in Rome for a visit. To divulge any more about the connection between John and Jack would ruin the surprise (which one doesn't catch onto until about 20 minutes into the story). I found this to be the best of the tales in Woody's flick, and one that was perhaps worthy of a whole movie by itself.
Much like his prior film, 'To Rome With Love' is Woody Allen's love letter to another European city. While it never quite matches the magic of 'Midnight in Paris', it's an enjoyable enough watch, although it's probably not going to be remembered as one of Allen's better efforts.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'To Rome With Love' travels to Blu-ray in a standard case housing a single 25GB disc. The disc is front-loaded with the theatrical trailer for 'Midnight in Paris' before arriving at its menu selection scene, with selection running across the bottom of the screen while video clips from the film play on the upper half. The case contains one insert, which is a contest advertisement for a chance to win a trip to Rome.
Like many of director Woody Allen's recent films, 'To Rome With Love' has a very over-saturated and "warm" look to the picture. The result is outdoor visuals that have a real luster to them, but also actors who tend to appear that they've been out in the sunlight for far too long. However, this seems to be Allen's preference, and this Blu-ray does a fine job of replicating the theatrical look of the film. While some of the indoor scenes and a few close-ups give off a somewhat soft appearance, the majority of outdoor scenes are crisp, colorful, and really show off the beauty of Rome. Although the movie was shot in 35mm, film grain is barely noticeable at all in most of the movie's scenes.
The film is given a lossless English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track (also available in French) with no flaws other than the fact that it's hardly active at all. As one could guess from a Woody Allen flick, most scenes aren't much more than people standing around talking to one another, so there's not much opportunity for "oomph" from the audio. Viewers/listeners will notice more activity, however, during a thunderstorm scene that takes place during the movie. An English Audio Descriptive Service is also available.
As Woody Allen films go, 'To Rome With Love' falls somewhere in the middle of the pack. It's far from his most moving or side-splitting work, but there's a pleasantry about it that draws you into the film and makes for an enjoyable viewing. Unless you're a die-hard Woody fan, this is a picture you will probably just want to rent rather than add to your permanent collection. It's worth a viewing… but once should be enough for most.