Movies:Movie Reviews:When in Rome

When in Rome

When in Rome
Photo: © Touchstone Pictures. All rights reserved.

Director(s): Mark Steven Johnson

Writer(s): David Diamond and David Weissman

Cast: Kristen Bell, Josh Duhamel, Anjelica Huston, Danny DeVito, Will Arnett, Jon Heder, Dax Shepard, Alexis Dziena, Kate Micucci and Peggy Lipton

Reviewed by: Ian Evans on

Release Date(s)

Jan 29, 2010 - Wide

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When in Rome is a generally harmless romantic comedy from the writers who brought us Old Dogs. That information can either be construed as trivia or a warning.

Beth (Kristen Bell) is a curator at the Guggenheim Museum who lives for her work. When her sister announces her impulsive wedding, Beth must make a quick 48 hour trip to Rome for the nuptials. While her sister believes in love at first sight and her father seems to collect ex-wives like baseball cards, Beth is waiting to find the man that’s more important to her than her job.

She might have found that guy in the best man, Nick (Josh Duhamel), who sweeps her off her feet at the reception until she sees him sharing a kiss with another guest. Angry at getting hurt again, a drunk Beth jumps into the Fountain of Love, scooping up five coins. Unbeknownst to her, local superstition means that the men who tossed those coins into the fountain will fall madly in love with her. Beth’s New York life is turned upside-down when the men follow her to the States like lovesick puppies. When she begins falling for Nick again, she begins to worry that his love is just a part of the spell that has affected the others.

Apart from Duhamel, the other men following Beth — Dax Shepard, Danny DeVito, Will Arnett and Jon Heder — all have frequently exercised their comedy chops on-screen. Their wings are clipped here by a screenplay that paints their characters with the broadest strokes and never gives them an opportunity to create the comedy magic that they’re capable of. I’ve seen less ham in a deli.

It’s because of this that the film has a split personality. The comedic scenes with Bell and Duhamel almost work because the cute couple do have a chemistry that fits their awkward courtship. Those scenes are immediately derailed whenever the other suitors are thrown into their seriously unfunny slapstick scenes, some of which feature the most awfully obvious green screen work in years. It’s as if the effects were handled by the descendants of the crew that worked on Plan 9 from Outer Space. The film would be much better if the writers and director had actually given the comic relief some real comedy to relieve us with.

When in Rome pulls out the usual tricks from the romantic comedy screenplay bag: the big misunderstanding that splits the leads, the quirky best friends that give you all the wrong advice, and the literal obstacles that face the male lead as he runs across town to express his true love.

Writers David Diamond and David Weissman managed to single-handedly destroy the buddy film with Old Dogs and now they’ve managed to take both the romantic and the comedy out of When in Rome. Seeing their names on a movie poster is now the cinematic equivalent of the warnings on cigarette packages.

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