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PopEntertainment.com > Reviews > Movie Reviews > When in Rome

MOVIE REVIEWS

WHEN IN ROME (2010)

Starring Kristen Bell, Josh Duhamel, Anjelica Huston, Danny DeVito, Will Arnett, Jon Heder, Dax Shepard, Alexis Dziena, Kate Micucci, Don Johnson, Peggy Lipton, Luca Calvani, Keir O'Donnell, Bobby Moynihan, Lee Pace, Kristen Schaal, Judith Malina, Natalie Joy Johnson, Brian Golub, Efren Ramirez, Shaquille O'Neal, Lawrence Taylor and Ghostface Killah.

Screenplay by David Diamond and David Weissman.

Directed by Mark Steven Johnson.

Distributed by Touchstone Pictures.  91 minutes.  Rated PG-13.

 

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When in Rome

When in Rome, you should make a better movie than this. 

Okay, thatís a bit of a cheap shot, I know.  Itís not even 100% fair, When in Rome is not an actively awful movie.  It is more an actively mediocre film.  It really canít be bothered to be better than it absolutely has to be. 

After all, you film a movie in one of the most beautiful, romantic cities in the world (two, actually, more of this film takes place in New York than in Rome), two drop dead gorgeous leads, the ability to film on location in one of the great art museums in the world and supporting turns by four highly-respected comic minds (though, honestly, two are infinitely more talented than the other two), you expect more than small car jokes, beer jokes, fart jokes, getting struck by lightning, a restaurant with no lights and at least four scenes when a main character walks headfirst into a pole or an open basement door. 

With a little work, When in Rome could have been a perfectly serviceable (if not great) romantic comedy along the lines of the mostly forgotten 90s Marisa Tomei/ Robert Downey, Jr. rom-com Only You Ė which, I think, is the type of highly romantic and just vaguely supernatural romantic comedy based in Italy that When in Rome is aspiring to become. 

Instead it is like that movie, but without the brains and the heart. 

Which is a shame, because you have an attractive lead couple, one we would like to root for, if the film was not so aggressively dumb. 

The clever (well clever-ish) concept is also wasted here.  Beth Harper (Kristen Bell) is a beautiful executive from the Guggenheim Museum.  She has given up on love, because her former boyfriend has finally found the courage to get engaged, to someone else, and her younger sister just got married after just two weeks of knowing her gorgeous Italian soon-to-be husband.  Not only that, the cute best man (Josh Duhamel) she thought she had a moment with turns out to be with a sultry Italian beauty. 

In a famous Fountain of Love in Rome, she drunkenly takes five coins.  According to legend, taking a coin from the fountain will get the person who threw it in to fall in love with you. 

Interestingly, in just one of many noticeable cheats in the script as soon as she picks up the coins (well four coins and one poker chip) we see the men being struck by the love spell Ė but one is not shown.  So, right away, the audience knows that chances are good that the guy who threw it into the fountain will not be who it appears to be. 

Soon, Beth is being bombarded by the guys who all flew to New York to win her love.  They are a series of embarrassing types Ė a fat middle-aged sausage magnate (Danny DeVito), a talentless and annoying magician (Jon Heder), a crazed Italian painter (Will Arnett) and a dim, vain model (Dax Shepard).  Then there is the hot best man, but does he love her because of her or the spell? 

We all know the answer to that question.  More to the point, why does it even really matter?  True love is true love whether it was earned through a spell or not.  If he doesnít know itís a spell, whatís the harm? 

However, this quandary leads Bell on a series of bad slapstick scenes Ė none of which are the least realistic, nor do they really make any sense to the action. 

Itís a shame, because like I said, the two leads are likeable presences.  Both have made their way from television (her Veronica Mars and Heroes, him Las Vegas) to supporting roles in popular films (her Forgetting Sarah Marshall, him Transformers.)  Both are finally getting the chance to be the leads in a major motion picture, and it is a step back for both.

Then again, talented pros like DeVito, Anjelica Huston, Don Johnson, Peggy Lipton and Arnett are also abandoned with nothing really to do.  And untalented supporting actors like Heder and Shepard are even more annoying than usual. 

By the time that we reach the inevitable climax back in Rome (why they are back in Rome is a little fuzzy, since the characters are native New Yorkers), the audience has known how this was going to end for a good hour or so. 

The fact that the main characters didnít know was probably just lazy screenwriting, but it gets the audience thinking that these may be two of the dumbest people in recent films.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2010 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: June 5, 2010.

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Copyright ©2010  PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: June 5, 2010.