"To Rome With Love" (R, 112 minutes, in English and a fair amount of subtitled Italian, Sony Home Entertainment): The comic roundelay opens with narration by an anonymous Roman traffic cop talking directly to the camera as cars whiz by. Filmmaker Woody Allen's Rome-set story unfolds as a bumper-to-bumper backup of multiple, interconnected tales about love, lust and the swirl of humanity. It isn't just the story, which involves four main threads and numerous subthreads. The movie is also crowded with characters standing in for Allen, from Alec Baldwin to Jesse Eisenberg. Somewhere in here is a real movie, but it's hard to find in all the mess (which, despite everything, is actually funny from time to time). It's as bustling as its titular city's piazzas, but it goes nowhere.
"Taken 2" (PG-13, 91 minutes, Fox): "Taken," about a former CIA operative who rescues his teenage daughter from sadistic sex-trade traffickers, was a surprise hit in 2009. Its appeal, apart from a straightforward, unpretentious approach to otherwise pedestrian material, was Liam Neeson. As "Taken" protagonist Bryan Mills, he infused an otherwise by-the-numbers procedural with an ineffable, highly appealing blend of Celtic soul and 6-foot-4 heft. But the sequel is every bit as clumsy, ham-handed, outlandish and laughable as the original was sleek, tough and efficient. "Taken 2" finds Bryan back in Los Angeles, teaching his daughter to drive and gazing wistfully at his ex-wife. When Bryan travels to Istanbul on business, circumstances conspire to bring his daughter and ex-wife there, too. Soon, all three are caught up in a nasty web of kidnapping, torture and revenge by earlier vanquished Albanian bad guys. It's a perfectly acceptable setup, but "Taken 2" seems more invested in going through the motions than in raising its own bar.
"The Intouchables" (R, 112 minutes, in French with English subtitles, The Weinstein Co.): A box-office smash in France, this is a feel-good movie about a distinctly feel-bad subject: quadriplegia. The fact-based story, which focuses on the relationship between Philippe, a white millionaire paralyzed in a paragliding accident, and Driss, the black hustler who becomes his live-in caregiver, neatly avoids most of themes and stress of the subject. Aside from a scene or two hinting at Driss' initial reluctance to change Philippe's diapers, there's little to suggest that there's anything terribly disagreeable about the setup.
The lens through which the "The Intouchables" was filmed may be too rose-colored for some people's taste, but the window that these talented performers throw open - a window onto the strange and touching friendship between two very different men - is crystal clear.
Also released Tuesday
"Won't Back Down"
"Farewell, My Queen"