Julia Roberts Slurps Pasta, Pets Elephant; Video Game: Movies

Julia Roberts slurps spaghetti in Rome, pets a rogue elephant in India and rides a bicycle through a tropical forest in Bali in “Eat Pray Love,” the turgid film adaptation of Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir about a divorcee’s global journey of self-discovery.

This Freudian travelogue is like a lushly illustrated self- help book. It’s stuffed with picture-postcard sights, sounds and suggested aromas -- there’s enough eating and drinking for a Food Network special -- but they can’t mask the underlying sappiness and bumper-sticker simplicity.

After divorcing her bourgeois husband (Billy Crudup) and having a rebound fling with a small-time actor (James Franco), writer Liz (Roberts) leaves New York for a yearlong sabbatical in Italy, India and Indonesia. She’s restless, miserable and ready to dramatically change her life.

The first stop is Rome, where she rents a rundown apartment with no hot water, befriends a cute Swede and her dreamy Italian boyfriend, tours Augustus’s mausoleum and eats so much that she has to buy bigger jeans. (A scene in which Roberts lies on the floor and struggles to button her pants is a stretch, in more ways than one.)

Tough Texan

Then it’s on to India, where she hunkers down at an ashram for prayer and meditation. She encounters Richard (Richard Jenkins), a tough-talking Texan recovering from a busted marriage ruined by his fondness for booze, drugs and sex, and Tulsi, an Indian teenager about to be forced into an arranged marriage. (The wedding, with its sparkling red dresses and flowered canopy, is so brightly colored it made my eyes hurt.)

Liz’s final destination is Bali, a tropical paradise she previously visited for a magazine story. There she reunites with Ketut (played by Hadi Subiyanto, a flutist from Jakarta), a medicine man who had predicted she would return and teach him English. Ketut is a combination of Tony Robbins and the Dalai Lama, her guide to self-improvement and spiritual enlightenment.

The other new man in her life is Felipe (Javier Bardem), a divorced Brazilian businessman with three kids and a broken heart. They dance and swim and hike together and before long we get to the love part of “Eat Pray Love.” Nothing is simple in Liz’s life, however, so complications arise, tears are shed and ... well, I’m sure you can figure it out.

Cloying Narration

Roberts, now a 42-year-old mother of three, looks terrific, especially in the flattering lights used by director Ryan Murphy, the creator of TV’s “Nip/Tuck” and “Glee.” But she’s sabotaged by the trite script (written by Murphy and Jennifer Salt), especially the cloying narration.

The only actor who rises above the material is Jenkins, who played the ghostly father on “Six Feet Under.” He provides much-needed comic relief to a story that threatens to drown in a sea of melancholy and introspection.

After watching this 2-hour, 13-minute melodrama -- a half- hour could easily have been cut -- I felt like I had just gorged at an all-you-can-eat buffet. I left the theater feeling sluggish and queasy.

“Eat Pray Love,” from Columbia Pictures, opens today across the U.S. Rating: **

‘Scott Pilgrim’

A companion video game to “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” is being released this month. Since the film is basically a video game transferred to the big screen, I wonder if it’s redundant.

Based on the graphic-novel series by Bryan Lee O’Malley, the movie is designed for the Nintendo/Xbox generation. It’s a manic trip into the mind of Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera), a 22- year-old Canadian garage-band guitarist who must battle the seven evil ex-boyfriends of his would-be girlfriend (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) to win her heart.

His foes include a pro skateboarder, a vegan rocker and identical twins, whom he fights in a comic-book style accentuated by “kabooms” and “pows.” The film moves at a frantic pace and is crammed with so many quips that I probably missed half of them.

The film was directed and co-written by Edgar Wright, best known for his genre spoofs “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz.” Maybe this should have been a spoof as well.

“Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” from Universal Pictures, opens today across the U.S. Rating: **


What the Stars Mean:

****          Excellent
***           Good
**            Average
*             Poor
(No stars)    Worthless

(Rick Warner is the movie critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)

To contact the writer on the story: Rick Warner in New York at rwarner1@bloomberg.net.

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