Review: “When in Rome”

The rom-com gets magical, but remains terrible.

Kristen Bell acting helpless.
PHOTO COURTESY TOUCHSTONE PICTURES

Kristen Bell acting helpless. PHOTO COURTESY TOUCHSTONE PICTURES

Tony Libera

When in RomeâÄù DIRECTED BY: Mark Steven Johnson STARRING: Kristen Bell, Josh Duhamel, Will Arnett. RATED: PG-13 SHOWING AT: Area Theaters ItâÄôs that time of year again, when manufactured sentiment flitters through the air like an errant Favre pass and movie studios spew out mediocre rom-coms, not unlike vomit, in preparation for that most horrible of Hallmark holidays. These are trying times for the proverbial boyfriend, as heâÄôs forced to see movies that do not cater to his brutish tastes. But if a film like âÄúWhen in RomeâÄù throws in some ancient Roman magic, a stupid amount of physical comedy and that dude from the âÄúBro RapeâÄú video, that ought to spice things up for the fellas, right? Wrong. This gem begins with the heroine (or is it damsel?) Beth flying to Italy to attend her sisterâÄôs impetuous wedding, days after learning of her ex-boyfriendâÄôs recent engagement. In Rome, she hits it off with the rugged best man (Josh Duhamel), but it appears that heâÄôs already taken. Dejected, Beth jumps into the Fountain of Love and takes a handful of coins. You see, when a person takes a coin out of the Fountain, the person that threw the coin instantly falls in love and apparently gains superhuman tracking abilities. The summary sounds convoluted, but the film is so much worse. The remaining hour follows Beth as she deals with her bewitched suitors âÄî a street magician (Jon Heder), a struggling artist (Will Arnett), a male model (Dax Shepard) and a sausage mogul (Danny DeVito) âÄî all while trying to find out if what she has with DuhamelâÄôs character is real. ItâÄôs hardly a surprise that âÄúWhen in RomeâÄù flops on every cinematic front. After all, this is a movie coming from David Weissman and David Diamond, the same screenwriting duo responsible for misfires like âÄúThe Family Man.âÄù Either their love of mush knows no bounds, or these gentlemen just love lining their pockets with teenage girlsâÄô allowances. Combine a schmaltzy script with the staggeringly bland direction of Mark Steven Johnson (he made âÄúGhost Rider,âÄù for goodnessâÄô sake) and youâÄôve got a heinously boring movie. ItâÄôs a shame, really, considering the acting talent that was somehow duped into being in this film. Touchstone Pictures had the right idea putting Kristen Bell in the lead role; sheâÄôs smart, funny and sheâÄôs a total babe. Unfortunately, the plot does its best to turn her into Bella Swan of âÄúTwilight.âÄù SheâÄôs helpless, overdramatic and seeks constant affirmation that her love is real. Is this really how women act in 2010? Somewhere Judith Butler is having another fit. The other characters donâÄôt have it much better; theyâÄôre all hastily drawn caricatures. Duhamel, with his chiseled jaw and boyish charm, is likeable enough as Nick Beamon, despite his stock quality. But the fact that he repeatedly goes after Beth, despite her apparent insanity, is less romantic than it is idiotic. Then again, this is the same guy who married Fergie, so itâÄôs not entirely unbelievable. Will Arnett lends his comedic grace, but a ridiculous Italian accent mars everything he says. Angelica Huston âÄî a veteran who could have given up crap jobs like this years ago âÄî attempts regality, but the script demands that she act and speak only in clichés. The only actors who remain likeable throughout are SNLâÄôs Bobby Moynihan, playing NickâÄôs goofy chum Puck, and Ghostface Killah, whose five-second cameo in this disaster is tempered by the fact that heâÄôs Ghostface Killah. âÄúWhen in RomeâÄù tries to be cute and it tries to warm hearts, and while thereâÄôs a chuckle to be had here and there, the movie is weighed down by a lackluster script with hyper-telegraphed plot points. If you want a romantic movie, do yourself a favor and dust âÄúWALL-EâÄù off the shelf. 1.5/5 Stars