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'Vicky Cristina Barcelona' Review

At Least Woody Allen Got the Casting Right

About.com Rating 2 Star Rating

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'Vicky Cristina Barcelona' Review

Scarlett, Javier and Penelope share the screen in 'Vicky Cristina Barcelona'

The Weinstein Company
With Vicky Cristina Barcelona, at least Woody Allen got the casting right. They are all so very pretty: Scarlett Johansson with her golden locks and ample cleavage; Penelope Cruz, who is so gorgeous she makes Scarlett appear plain when they share the screen; hunky Javier Bardem who has lost the serial killer hair cut that landed him an Academy Award; and even relative newcomer Rebecca Hall, who is willowy and lovely.

Scarlett and Penelope's Sapphic Kiss Not Exciting

Lucky enough to have such enormous talents still eager to work with him, Allen simply plops them into a gorgeous city, scripts a scene where Scarlett and Penelope make out in the dark, and hopes that the eye candy will carry the film.

Crazy Penelope Cruz smokes a cigarette in 'Vicky Cristina Barcelona'

Weinstein Company
But it's not enough, and Vicky Cristina Barcelona is not a good movie. The plot is of little consequence: two young women set out on a summer vacation, experience summer love affairs (along with the requisite emotional upset), and in the end there's some kind of resolution. The jokes -- all three of them -- fall flat. And if you have heard rumors about hot threesomes, lower your expectations immediately. There is no nudity in Vicky Cristina Barcelona; there is barely any sex and certainly no titillation.

Now in his seventies, Allen is certainly no longer the filmmaker to make a film about young women's spiritual awakenings, if he ever was. His two protagonists are cardboard cut-outs: one practical, the other wild and willing. A male narrator, who otherwise has no connection to the proceedings, explains the most obvious facts as well as the inner workings of Vicky and Cristina. Thank goodness for that, because whatever information Allen provides about these two young women onscreen makes no sense otherwise. Why, for instance, is Vicky engaged to that boring, prosperous dude in the khakis (Chris Messina) who constantly nags her on the telephone? How is it that she is writing her graduate thesis on Catalan culture but speaks no Spanish?

If you like watching privileged beautiful people flitting from expensive homes to fancy restaurants to dazzling tourist attractions to plush hotel rooms and gala gallery openings, you're likely to find something to enjoy in this movie. I was hoping for a guilty pleasure, but after watching Vicky and Cristina drink their zillionth glass of wine, I had enough. It's fun to hear Bardem delivering preposterous dialogue to seduce the American tourists; he can pull it off. It's more problematic when Cruz goes nuts in the role of cliched passionate Spanish woman, for the simple reason that the narrator tells us, plainly, that she's crazy. Could it be that Allen doesn't know what to do with a gorgeous and brilliant woman but make her be mad?

More About Vicky Cristina Barcelona

'Vicky Cristina Barcelona' (2008)

Starring: Javier Bardem, Patricia Clarkson, Penelope Cruz, Scarlett Johansson, Rebecca Hall
Directed by: Woody Allen
Produced by: Woody Allen, Jaume Roures, Letty Aronson
Running Time: 1 hr. 36 min.
Release Date: August 15th, 2008 (limited)
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for mature thematic material involving sexuality and smoking.
Distributors: The Weinstein Company
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