"When in Rome" Movie Review (2010)

1/30/2010 Posted by Admin

Movie Review

"When in Rome"

Directed by Mark Steven Johnson, Written by Johnson, David Diamond, and David Weissman, 91 minutes, Rated PG-13.

By our guest blogger, Rob Stammitti

"When in Rome" is not a good film. Let's get that out of the way right now. Nor is it even a passable film. In fact, this is hardly a film at all--last time I checked, films had plot, characters (and character development) and, if nothing else, some semblance of a purpose other than to make money. Such is not the case here. At all.

In the movie, Kristen Bell is a relatively successful art curator named Beth. She is described as "hopelessly single," and this is predominately due to her preferring her job over any man she meets. Her impulsive younger sister tells her she's about to marry a man she met two weeks ago. Beth is annoyed, both at what she sees as a poor decision and at the fact that her younger sister is getting married first.  Still, she's nevertheless happy for her, so she goes to Rome to attend the wedding.

There, she meets Nick (Josh Duhamel), a handsome, funny and endlessly charming suitor. They hit it off, but Beth mistakes a woman he's with for his girlfriend and lays off. Following the wedding reception, she pouts drunkenly outside at a fountain--but this is no ordinary fountain, this is the fountain of love. People from all over the world throw their coins in with hopes of finding romance. Beth jumps in and takes five coins. Don't ask me why--the film refuses to explain her motives.

But wait, there's a catch. The person who threw the coin into the fountain will immediately become infatuated with the person who removes the coin. Beth took five, so upon her return to New York City, she finds herself being chased around by four different wacky suitors--Lance (Jon Heder), a two-bit street magician; Gale (Dax Shepard) a vain male model; Antonio (Will Arnett), an artist; and a sausage entrepreneur played by Danny Devito. The real dilemma arises, however, when Nick seems to be after her as well.  The question is this--is he under the fountain's spell? Or is he the real deal?

The film's primary conflict could have been solved with a simple, "Hey, Nick, did you throw a coin into the fountain?" But hey, why do that when you can spend 90 minutes taking part in wacky shenanigans only to have the problem solved at the end anyway? Really, the ending is so "Hollywood," I almost thought it was another joke. It wasn't.

"When in Rome" was directed and co-written by Mark Steven Johnson, best known for his Marvel Comics adaptations "Daredevil" and "Ghost Rider." If that alone doesn't indicate the quality of direction we see here, I'll make it clearer. It's inept. In fact, to be quite honest, "Ineptitude" would have been a better title for this film.

We spend practically the whole running time watching Kristen Bell get stalked and irritated by the four crazy suitors, each one basically repeating the jokes from the scene we last saw them in, and occasionally we get little snippets from other characters--Nick's friend, who is basically a poor-man's Seth Rogen, even spouting pseudo-clever pop culture references, and Beth's boss, played by Anjelica Huston, which is basically an aping of Meryl Streep in "The Devil Wears Prada," among others. None of them are amusing in the slightest.

Perhaps I'm looking at the film from the wrong direction--I'm hardly the target audience--but that doesn't excuse it for failing even at the most basic aspects of film. Characters, especially your lead, should have some sort of relatable or, at the very least, likable quality. A romance should feel as if it may not work out in order to create some sort of suspense. A film, no matter what it's about, should have something to say. "When in Rome" has none of it. The performances are adequate--I suppose that's one upside--but it's hardly enough to save this from being a disaster.

Grade: F

View the trailer for "When in Rome" below. What are your thoughts?

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