06/21/2012 10:09 am ET Updated Aug 21, 2012

Movie review: To Rome With Love

Woody Allen's To Rome With Love is a valentine to that city, rendered through a series of semi-connected stories set in the Italian hub.

It's light and frothy, mixing silliness, romance, magic realism and absurdity. It may not be Allen's most cohesive film, but it has its charms (and its flaws), nonetheless.

Allen assembles a disparate and not necessarily interconnected group of plots, which feel like short stories or one-act plays. Mixing them together takes the pressure off each to carry too much weight -- yet together they provide their own delights, adding up to Allen's take on the kind of breezy Italian sex comedy that always seemed to star Marcello Mastroianni or Sophia Loren (or both) in the 1960s.

The film starts with Alison Pill as Hayley, an American tourist asking directions from a handsome Italian, Michelangelo (Flavio Parenti). Before long, they're engaged and her parents, Jerry (Allen) and Phyllis (Judy Davis) are winging their way to Rome to meet their future son-in-law and his family.

Jerry is an unhappily retired record executive who dabbled in directing opera. At the apartment of Michelangelo's parents, Jerry hears Michelangelo's father, Giancarlo (famed tenor Fabio Armiliato), singing opera in the shower and is floored by his talent. Giancarlo is a mortician, however, who has no interest in performing in public. So Jerry figures out a way to get Giancarlo onto a stage in a portable shower stall.

Another segment deals with newlyweds Antonio (Alessandro Tiberi) and Milly (Alessandra Mastronardi), just arrived from a small town, who come to Rome to meet with his uncles, who promise him a well-paying job. Milly, however, wants to get her hair done before meeting her new in-laws -- and winds up getting lost trying to find a beauty salon.

Milly falls into a whirlwind romance with a famously womanzing movie star she meets while wandering the streets. Antonio, meanwhile, is the mistaken recipient of a visit from a prostitute, Anna (Penelope Cruz), who shows up in his hotel room moments before his uncles arrive. So he passes her off as his wife.

This review continues on my website.