When in Rome tries really hard to make its audience fall in love with the film. It not only gives us two likeable leads in Kristen Bell and Josh Duhamel but also a strong supporting cast that includes Anjelica Huston, Dax Shepard, and Danny DeVito. It takes place partly in Rome too, which means pretty scenery and cute cars. There’s even some magic because why the hell not? Despite this effort, however, I’m not at all convinced that this romantic comedy is worth watching, especially when there are far better movies about Americans falling in love in Italy.
This one relies on a master book of clichés, which is not a criticism since all films do to a degree, but very little about this movie feels fresh. It’s like watching a hamster spinning around in its wheel – repetitive, dull, and exhausting. Bell plays Beth, a curator at the Guggenheim who flies off to Rome for her sister’s wedding. Things aren’t going great for her in the romance department, and when she sees the best man whom she kind of fancies making out with a hot girl, she takes a drunken dip in the Fontana d’Amore. Since the coins in the fountain symbolize people’s wish for love, she decides to save them the trouble and retrieves a few, bringing them back with her to New York.
That’s when Beth’s problems start. In quick succession, a line of guys begin accosting her on the street and at work, proclaiming their undying love for her. It’s an eclectic group; there’s a model (Shepard), an artist (Will Arnett), a street magician (Jon Heder), and a sausage vendor (DeVito). None compare to that dishy best man though, and it turns out this Nick (Duhamel) character is also in New York. Beth soon realizes the source of this adulation, and it’s not her great looks and killer personality. Tradition has it that if you fish someone’s coin out of the fountain, they will be under your spell until you return the coin. Tough break, Beth.
Or not because this movie is full of unacceptable stalker behavior, like it’s time to call the cops sort of behavior. I’m not above accepting a sausage basket or two (actually, can someone please send me one), but when nude murals of you start appearing all over the city or when a stranger and his photographer are waiting to surprise you at your home, it’s time to rethink ideas of romance. To be fair, Beth makes it clear that she does not appreciate these overtures and that they won’t win her over, but Nick, who may or may not be under the spell, also has no problem sending his photojournalist friend (Bobby Moynihan) to stalk her.
Since most of the humor is centered around stalking, When in Rome is just not that funny. Anjelica Huston is also wasted as Beth’s Miranda Priestly-like boss. With all the men acting wacko, there’s not much for her to do except cock an eyebrow and glance menacingly at her junior. I like Bell and Duhamel but the script doesn’t give them a chance to show off their comedic abilities. Rome also gets the short shrift, and it looks like most of “Rome” was filmed on a studio lot or some place approximating a sunny, cobblestoned town. After watching this movie, I was ready to kick back and spend the night with Only You, a truly funny and romantic film about love, magic, and Italy.
Prod: Mark Steven Johnson, Gary Foster, Andrew Panay
Dir: Mark Steven Johnson
Writer: Mark Steven Johnson, David Diamond, David Weissman
Cast: Kristen Bell, Josh Duhamel, Will Arnett, Jon Heder, Dax Shepard, Danny DeVito, Anjelica Huston, Kate Micucci, Bobby Moynihan, Alexis Dziena, Luca Calvani, Kristen Schaal, Peggy Lipton, Don Johnson, Lee Pace
Time: 91 min
Country: United States