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Italian for Dummies

“Letters to Juliet” is an insult in multiple romance languages.

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Months or even weeks from now, you could be flipping the Tuesday morning offerings on cable or perusing the bottom of the Netflix stars and come across “Letters to Juliet.” It's one of those goofy, flimsy, forgettable movies that makes you wonder where it came from, why it exists, and who the guilty party is.

The movie stars the lovely and highly buoyant Amanda Seyfried as Sophie, an American tourist in Tuscany helping aging romantic Claire (Vanessa Redgrave) find her long-lost Italian flame. Sophie discovered a note Claire left 50 years ago for Juliet Capulet, the literary character. Evidently she's a hot tourist attraction and an answerer of love notes from distraught females. In the movie a group of women gather up the notes left to Juliet and write back. And we're given to infer that the women who receive the responses eagerly devour them, perhaps like children with letters from Santa Claus.

“That's amazing,” Sophie declares when Claire arrives bearing her response, which Sophie sent during her vacation with her fiance (Gael Garcia Bernal). “It's been less than a week since I mailed it!” Sometimes it's best not to point out what's amazing in your own movie, but equally amazing is Sophie's future hubby's disinterest in his blushing bride-to-be, leaving Sophie to meet cute with Claire's hunky grandson Charlie (Chris Egan), a “pip pip!, cheerio chaps!” Brit straight off a GQ cover who dotes on his dear old gran.

The three hopscotch over half of Tuscany looking for the beau Claire left behind, dropping in on a dozen or so Lorenzo Bartollinis, none of whom are the right one though all just happen to be Claire's exact age. What the coincidence doesn't do for realism it does for the montage.

“Letters to Juliet” is based on a novel, but numerous rewrites and direction by rom-com helmer Gary Winick (“Bride Wars”) have made the adaptation what Ragu is to a tomato. This is about as romantic as a trip to the Olive Garden. (PG) 105 min. *

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