When in Rome

It’s always a bad sign when a studio releases a romantic comedy a few weeks before Valentine’s Day… because you know if the film were actually any good, they’d hold its release until as close to Cupid’s big holiday as possible.
Our Rating

Genre(s): Comedy, Romance

Director: Mark Steven Johnson

Actors: Kristen Bell, Josh Duhamel

Year: 2010

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Country: United States

Not surprisingly, then, this would-be rom-com is neither romantic nor particularly funny, and is precisely the kind of movie you’d expect to hit screens at this cinematic dead-zone time of year. In short, it’s clunky, unfunny and largely charmless.

Kristen Bell stars as Beth, a recently dumped art curator, who makes the mistake of drunkenly withdrawing a few coins from the “fountain of love” in Rome… which – unbeknownst to Beth – then causes the coins’ respective tossers (pun very much intended) to magically fall in love with her. There’s a Criss Angel-esque street magician (Jon Heder), a self-absorbed model (Dax Shepard), a smarmy painter (Will Arnett) and a sausage magnate (Danny DeVito, who provides the film’s sole ounce of genuine heart)… and they all pursue her relentlessly despite the fact she wants nothing to do with any of them.

While all this is going on, Beth finds herself drawn to a likable sports reporter named Nick (the equally likable Josh Duhamel), who’s smitten with Beth but has trouble wading through the moat of her fervent admirers to win her heart.

What could be a cute story about the stars misaligning and keeping two lovers apart is, instead, a totally paint-by-numbers bore that feels very thrown together in a “who cares, let’s just get this movie finished and be done with it” kind of way. Characters are clichéd and one-dimensional, and almost all of them make inexplicable decisions that defy logic in the name of propelling the action onward by any ridiculous means necessary. (The worst offender is Beth’s needlessly foolish assistant, played by Kate Micucci.) There are pratfalls and sight gags and, sadly, none of them work… they just make everything seem more labored. (Did I mention that the film is directed by Mark Steven Johnson, whose last film was the spectacularly stinky Ghost Rider? There you go.)

And the film itself smacks of something that was made for television, or aimed at a straight-to-DVD release, not a theatrical run. Everything looks like it was made of cardboard and plaster and shot on a Hollywood backlot somewhere. Sure, there’s B-roll footage of Italy, and one scene of Bell being shuttled through the streets of Rome (?) in a taxi… but, otherwise, it sure seems like no one else actually set foot off of North America in the making of this movie.

As much as I enjoy Kristen Bell, and most of her co-stars, any wish for a fantastic big-screen project does not come true with this dud.


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