Letters to Juliet (PG)
2 stars out of 4
If you've caught the trailer for "Letters to Juliet," you've already seen the entire movie and should consider yourself lucky that you've saved some money and can now put 90 minutes of your life to better use. That's not "entire" in the literal sense but certainly in the figurative. There are two minutes of substance surrounded by 50 times that much of inert and innocuous filler.
Because the filmmakers force-fit in a few chuckle-inducing lines of dialogue, it technically qualifies as a comedy, but it's really a string of warm-and-tender moments projecting the same level of tepid drama found in original movies churned out by both the "Oxygen" and "Lifetime" channels. Its narrative may be wan and wanting but boy, does it ever look good.
With the exception of a few minor scenes in Manhattan, it was shot in three Italian cities and -- as one character points out -- could cause the tourism business in Italy to shoot through the roof. If you've seen this type of film before -- and most of you have many times -- it would be entirely possible (maybe recommendable) to watch the movie when it comes out on DVD without sound. The story is so predictable you could view it in silence and follow the plot line perfectly.
The second bit of eye candy comes courtesy of the two principal female characters that prove that true beauty is timeless and talented performers can (almost) make you overlook shoddy material.
The close-to-overexposed Amanda Seyfried stars as Sophie, a journalist hoping to get published in the New Yorker. She's engaged to Victor (Gael Garcia Bernal), a self-consumed chef who is about to open his own restaurant. In Italy on their pre-wedding honeymoon, it becomes painfully clear within the first few minutes that Sophie and Victor are not star-crossed lovers, but rather two people with diametrically-opposed priorities.
While Victor is off lining up future suppliers, Sophie takes in Verona and is drawn to the tourist attraction that is the fictional home of Shakespeare's immortal title character. Lovelorn females leave notes on a wall in the hopes Juliet will answer them and provide council. In no time flat, Sophie ingratiates herself into the fold of women who answer these letters and sets about to respond to one lost in the wall in 1957.
Sophie sends her letter and in what feels like seconds gets a response and is taken to task by the woman's snooty grandson Charlie (Christopher Egan). Charlie is upset that Sophie has falsely inflated the hopes of Claire (Vanessa Redgrave) who, at 15, fell for a suave local boy but ultimately chickened-out on taking it further, returned to England and has been regretting her decision ever since.
With the overlong premise finally established, Claire, Charlie and Sophie hit the road in search of a man whose name is evidently the Italian equivalent of the commonly-used English "John Smith." The trio travels over hill and dale to track down the mysterious lost lover, which of course means clunky encounters with just the right amount of red herrings.
Aesthetics of the human female and Mediterranean varieties aside, the entirety of the rest of film is a bust. Attractive in their own respectable Anglo and Latin manners, neither of the characters played by Egan or Bernal is very likeable and we can't figure out why a woman as together and focused as Sophie would want either one of them.
As much as all of this screams "date movie" it is not. "Letters to Juliet" is pure chick/chick bonding fluff or a nice travelogue primer for anyone planning a trip to The Boot. By comparison, it will make cotton candy seem as heavy as a 32-ounce rib-eye steak and you'll forget most of what you just saw before you even leave the confines of your seat. (Summit Entertainment)