Leave it to Woody Allen to muck up a threesome involving Scarlett Johansson and Penelope Cruz. Then again, given that Allen’s recent track record has been uniformly blah – to the point that even bemoaning his fall-from-grace has become a tiresome requirement of critiquing his yearly output – it’s hardly surprising to find Vicky Cristina Barcelona tripping over its faux-salacious selling point. Via narration so heavy on exposition it immediately tips over into self-parody, Allen’s film makes clear, in its opening scene, that best friend protagonists Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Johansson) are polar opposites, the former a levelheaded yuppie loyal to her responsible fiancé, and the latter a free-spirit sexpot who only knows what she doesn’t want. That these two share no similarities makes their friendship seem like a screenwriting device, but then, everything about Vicky Cristina Barcelona feels that way, with the awful narration and equally unnatural dialogue (Johansson doesn’t utter a single authentic-sounding sentence in the entire film) all defined by their Woody-ness, to the point that one can almost hear him reading the scenes himself off the page. The contrived story involves the duo’s unexpected relationship with a Spanish painter (Javier Bardem) who rocks their world even after inviting into the bedroom his murderous, suicidal ex-wife (an overdoing-it Penélope Cruz). Bardem oozes charm as the impossibly calm, open-minded, seductive artist, but his character, like Cruz’s hysterical nutjob, comes off as a one-note concept, not an actual person. Once again working in a beautiful European locale with which he has no intrinsic connection, Allen’s direction proves blandly impersonal, thereby reducing the proceedings to a travelogue snapshot of Barcelona’s key tourist spots.