Movie Review – When In Rome
Title: When In Rome (2010)
Starring: Kristen Bell, Josh Duhamel, Jon Heder, Dax Shepard
It’s a good thing most romantic comedies are short. the good ones make you long for more after they’re ended; while the bad ones make you glad they’re over. When In Rome is fortunately, or unfortunately, the latter. This shouldn’t be surprising considering director Mark Steven Johnson is known for directing films like Ghost Rider and Daredevil. What’s really surprising is that the cast includes screen legends who should know better, like Anjelica Huston (she’s utterly wasted here0, rising stars like Kristen Bell, lee Pace (albeit briefly), and Josh Duhamel and Dax Shepard. It’s a mishmash of the brilliant and the horrible. When in Rome wont destroy the romantic comedy, but it’s a genre that’s in bad need of repair.
The movie thankfully begins with very little set-up. Career-driven Guggenheim art Beth Martin (Kristen Bell) finds out that her ex-boyfriend Brady (Lee Pace) is engaged to another woman. This isn’t her first heartbreak, but she’s determined for it to be last. Out of the blue, her little sister Joan (Alexis Dziena) announces her spontaneous engagement to her Italisn boyfriend of two weeks. Beth immediately heard to Rome for the wedding and at the reception meets Nick Beamon (Josh Duhamel), the groom’s American friend sparks fly but Beth isn’t interested in heartbreak. In a moment of anger she takes coins from the Fountain of Love and unwittingly unleashes an ancient spell. The coin’s owners suddenly begin to chase Beth back to New York to win her love. Her belligerent admirers include sausages king Al Ruso (Danny DeVito), street illusionist Lance (Jon Heder), Painter Nick begins to woo Beth as well.
Beth is another in a long line of romantic comedy career heroines. She loves her job, but she refuses to settle down until she finds a man she loves more than her job. A job which, incidentally, is run by an absolute shrew of a boss (Anjelica Huston). Female bosses are often shrews in movie. High- powered career woman are either never fulfilled with their jobs, or never find love. They’re stuck in a limbo of misery – married to a supposedly thankless job they love and desperately seeking a mate they can only get by shirking their professional responsibilities. Beth’s little sister Alexis is not really given a career description and yet she is rewarded with true love, even though she barely knows her husband. It’s a miracle Kristen Bell manages to play Beth with any humanity at all. Bell is sunny with a side of sourness. no matter how badly things have turned in Beth’s love life, Bell chugs her along with a pleasant disposition that’s wasted.
Bell does, miraculously, blissfully, have chemistry with her co- star Josh Duhamel. He admittedly has almost nothing to do other to do other than stand still and look pretty, but he pulls off being seemingly genuinely smitten with Bell’s character. He’s like a lost puppy. Bell and Duhamel’s chemistry gets much less screen time than ridiculous antics of the rest of the characters. Their magic is truer than the fake love spells, and When in Rome’s only shining light.
The supporting characters destroy when in Rome. Heder, Shepard, Arnett, and Devito, who play Beth’s admirers, are a creepy 21 St- century version of the seven dwarves. Each love-struck beau is more irritating than the last. Heder plays the same schtick he’s played since Napoleon Dynamite – goofy, unrelenting, and bafflingly stupid. Sherpard plays the same self-absorbed blockhead he always plays. Arnett portrays Antonio with the most cringe-worthy Italian accent this side of Nicolas cage’s in Captain Coreli’s Mandolin. And Devito manages to be more irritating than his co-stars combined. They’re even worse as a group – they’re a well-oiled machine of romantic comedy horrors. If they’re not performing mindless of romantic comedy horrors. If they’re not performing mindless street magic to gain Beth’s love, they’re not performing mindless street magic to gain Beth’s love; they’re running her down, or worse – breaking and entering into her apartment. Why doesn’t Beth call the police and get a restraining order? Because hijinks couldn’t ensue, that’s why. Beth can’t find any these buffoons attractive, so they’re hardly obstacles on her way to the altar with Nick.
When in Rome is even badly titled. Most of the action doesn’t take place in Rome in Rome, but it still stereotypes Italians as hopeless romantic, or as quaint people with tiny cars and strange customs. In addition to its wacky characters, the movie’s flimsy premise is hardly anything to go on. The spell of the Fountain of Love states that taking a coin from the fountain will make you the object of the coin owner’s affection. Nobody could believe such a thing, but somewhere despite Beth’s skepticism about true love, she believes in the legend without much proof. Instead of laughting it off and calling the cops because a group of love-struck loons are after her, Beth is determined to break the spell. If only the movie could be as hystericaly funny as its laughable premise. Instead it’s littered with unfunny gags, and unbelievable characters presented under the guise of humour. What’s even less believable is that all of Beth’s suitors are white, mostly American, and male. How convenient. Do no women or people of colour toss their coins into the fountain?
When in Rome wont suck hour of your life away that you can’t get back. Never feat. It’s too short, and so awful you’ll likely purge all memories of it from your mind.
Reviewed by S.I.