When in Rome. It's one of those phrases that you hear fairly often. It's said by people who are going along with a group, conforming to their behaviors to fit in. Now, I hate to join the critics who are giving Kristen Bell's latest film scathing reviews, but hey, when in Rome.
When in Rome is yet another in a long line of predictable romantic comedies. The thing is, this one is more predictable than the rest. Not in a long time have I sat down and picked apart a film scene by scene, line by line, guessing ahead of time exactly what was going to happen and what was going to be said. I was right about 85 percent of the time.
The film stars the adorable Kristen Bell as Beth, a woman who obsesses over her job and can't find love. When her sister, played by Alexis Dziena, announces she is getting married in Rome, Beth packs up and flies out. There she meets a handsome man named Nick, played by Josh Duhamel and she is instantly smitten by him. However, after she sees a drunk woman kiss him, she wrongfully analyzes the situation and claims there is nobody in the world out there for her, so she makes her way over to a famed fountain of love where people go to throw in coins with the hopes of finding someone. Well, she decides to pick some of them out of the water for some reason. Perhaps it was on impulse or perhaps it was a larger metaphor for how difficult it can be to pick the right person in a sea of people. Or perhaps it's just a contrivance. We'll go with the latter.
Little does Beth know that when you take wished upon coins out of the fountain of love, the ones who threw them in fall in love with you. Now back in New York, she is being stalked by Antonio, an Italian painter played by Will Arnett, Lance, a street magician played by Jon Heder, Gale, a model played by Dax Shepard, and a character played by Danny DeVito whose name eludes me because it isn't on IMDb.
Of course, the main bulk of the story is the love connection between Beth and Nick, the latter falling in love with the former while the former thinks the latter is only doing so because she picked his coin, or in this case a poker chip, out of the fountain. I'll give the film this. The premise is mildly clever. It's not just your typical rom-com where a good looking man and woman meet one day and fall in love over the course of two hours. Ok, it is, but it had room to grow.
The sad part is that it didn't. The possibilites of five men fighting for the heart of one woman, all under a spell they have no control over, are endless. So many wonderful jokes could have been made here, but each character embodies only one, coming off as cookie cutter and one-dimensional. For instance, all of Gale's lines revolve around how well sculpted and good looking he is. Antonio's jokes obsess over Beth's feet because as a painter, he needs to see them to put them on paper. DeVito's character is a meat man and his jokes all revolve around sausage. None of them fall into something other than a running one note joke.
The only person that squeezes a laugh or two out of their banality is Jon Heder. His quirkiness comes across well and he delivers his lines with an exaggerated seriousness that fits his character. There was also a Napoleon Dynamite reference, although out of place and forced into the movie, that was funny enough to break up the monotony.
But that monotony is only furthered along by the weak story that putters along like a broken down car. The only main force trying to pull this through is the chemistry between Kristen Bell and Josh Duhamel which rings true even in an outlandish film such as this. Bell is beautiful and sweet and forces you to like her. The same goes for the jealousy inducing good looks of Duhamel.
Too bad they're trapped in a horrific screenplay. This is a movie that thinks its funny when Nick stops before he runs into a pole, only to walk past it and fall into a hole. It's a movie that uses the record scratching sound bite that signifies a drastic change in tone multiple times in only a few minutes. It's a movie where jokes consist of "Gale takes shirt off." That's how out of ideas When in Rome is.
When in Rome receives 1.5/5