I do hope that this is the last time Woody Allen will cast Scarlett Johansson in anything, because in Vicky Cristina Barcelona, she's approaching pure trollop. As Cristina, an anything-goes sexpot who entertains artistic pretensions, Johansson could be Brigitte Bardot dubbed with a flat American accent. If you entertain the idea that she might be parodying herself, it's almost an interesting performance.

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Vicky Cristina Barcelona is about two American types: uptight Vicky (pretty brunette Rebecca Hall), who's engaged to be married, and loosey-goosey Cristina (pretty blond Scarlett Johansson), who has precious few goals in life. On a very American sojourn in Barcelona—neither speaks Spanish or Catalan, despite the fact that Vicky is pursuing a master's degree in Catalan culture—the drinky girls encounter Juan Antonio (pretty Latin lover Javier Bardem). Juan Antonio proposes a threesome. Cristina assents, Vicky demurs, and somebody's ulcer (what?) ensures that neither gets what she bargained for. Then comes a wild, lumbering stereotype in the form of Penélope Cruz. It seems Juan Antonio has a volatile ex-wife named Maria Elena. The two Spaniards get into crazy Spanish arguments whenever Maria Elena isn't threatening to commit crazy Spanish suicide.

Thanks to the actors (Cruz especially), who make the most of their outrageous duties, Vicky Cristina Barcelona is amusing. Mostly, though, it feels like a lost opportunity. Allen assembled four fantastic actors and gave them a junk farce dressed with throwaway dialogue. Talented cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe took the city of Barcelona and drowned its colors in a monotonous rusty orange sunlight. Vicky Cristina Barcelona is everything it tries, halfheartedly, to criticize about the character of Vicky: It's determined to be ordinary and likeable no matter what the emotional cost.

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