“Formulaic” is a neutral adjective for “Manual of Love 3,” yet another Italo laffer in which hot women with interchangeable cleavage vamp befuddled men in various stages of retarded emotional development. This one, however, has Robert De Niro, which adds a touch of novelty to Giovanni Veronesi’s latest installment in the romantic-comedy franchise. Given opening-weekend postings of $4 million, it’s obvious the formula works well in Berlusconi’s Italy, which officially ranks below Malawi and Paraguay in terms of gender equality. But away from the peninsula, this “Manual” has long been superseded.
Three stories illustrate the three ages of man, connected by a taxi-driving Cupid (Emanuele Propizio). Youth is represented by Roberto (the not-quite-dewy Riccardo Scamarcio) convinced he wants to marry Sara (Valeria Solarino) until he’s bewitched by Micol (Laura Chiatti). Next comes married newscaster Fabio (Carlo Verdone), seduced by mad stalker Eliana (Donatella Finocchiaro). Finally there’s Adrian (De Niro, at ease in Italian), rediscovering his youth thanks to sympathetic stripper in distress Viola (Monica Bellucci). Lovemaking scenes are poorly shot, and lighting is generically artificial, as is Luca Merlini’s improbably rich production design.