The Good: Most of the acting is not actually terrible.
The Bad: No remarkable performances, Thinly painted characters, Absurd plot, Pounding soundtrack.
The Basics: Kristen Bell makes an all-around dud of a romantic comedy with When In Rome, a film that forgets to put any romance in the film!
When I reviewed Confessions Of A Shopaholic (reviewed here!), I used a title that I find I wish I could continue using. So very many movies, especially romantic comedies, are predicated on the idea that women are idiots that it is shocking how many women continue to support Hollywood’s ridiculous notions of them by buying tickets to movies where women are portrayed as simpletons at best, idiots at worst. I am always pleasantly surprised when I uncover a romantic comedy that defies that tradition.
Unfortunately, When In Rome is not one of the romantic comedies that defies the notion that even smart women are lovestruck into becoming idiotic in the most unfathomable ways relative to the rest of their character traits.
I picked up When In Rome based on the presence of Kristen Bell, who bought quite a bit of cache with me from her performance in Veronica Mars (reviewed here!). She illustrates none of that potential or talent in When In Rome.
In When In Rome, Bell plays Beth, a young woman who loves her work more than she has ever loved a man. Waiting for the right man to come along, she works hard at her New York City art gallery on a major installation. However, as she makes plans for that installation, her sister meets a man whom she intends to marry rather abruptly. Beth flies off to Italy for the wedding and at it, she finds herself charmed by the best man, Nick Beamon. Nick seems pretty smitten with Beth as well, but at the fountain of love outside the church, Beth witnesses Nick getting kissed by another woman and she assumes her feelings were wrong. Taking some coins from the fountain, Beth finds herself pursued by five men, including Nick, when she returns stateside.
As Beth attempts to get rid of Lance (the magician), Antonio (the crazy artist), Gale (a self-obsessed male model), and Al (an older divorcee), she finds her problems at the art gallery bailed out by Nick. But soon, she realizes she loves him more than her job and she works to undo the magic that binds the other men to her.
The fundamental problem with When In Rome is that the relationship between Nick and Beth is so unimpressive and indistinct as to be no more significant than any of the contrived relationships from the fountain magic. There is nothing special about their relationship and, sadly, Kristen Bell and Josh Duhamel (Beth and Nick, respectively) have less than no on-screen chemistry. There is no sexual chemistry on screen between them and their lack of passion makes much of the film dull, though not unbearable.
In fact, When In Rome devotes so much time to presenting all of the insignificant characters that in order to keep the film down at the ninety minute range (the standard minimum running time for most movies and, apparently, the ideal running time for contrived romantic comedies) , it neglects to significantly develop the relationship between Nick and Beth. Their relationship is not the only one that is underwhelming: Beth’s sister, Joan, pops in entirely for plot support. In addition to providing the plot point that allows Beth and Nick to meet, Joan calls from Italy to relay the myth of the fountain and, as the film goes on, the various steps needed to defeat the magic that Beth is subject to.
The other suitors are all “types” with one discerning character trait each and their schtick gets very old very quick (especially Jon Heder’s Lance, who is paired yet again with his Napoleon Dynamite co-star Efren Ramirez).
On the acting front, When In Rome is a terrible waste of the talent involved. None of the performers give anything the viewer has not already seen from them before – Will Arnett, for example, is essentially playing, alternately, his characters from Arrested Development and 30 Rock as Antonio. It is hard to say whose talent is wasted more: his, Danny DeVito’s or Anjelica Huston, all of whom are relegated to bit supporting roles.
When In Rome is not funny, not clever, and uses all of the usual conceits for a romantic comedy geared at getting the 18 – 24 year old women’s audience’s dollars. On DVD, When In Rome features a blooper reel, deleted scenes, and 2 music videos, none of which make the film any better. When In Rome is an all-around dud that seems determined to continue insulting the intelligence of women by appealing to an outdated sense of romance with the most ridiculous conceits imaginable.
For other works with Alexis Dziena, please visit my reviews of:
Nick And Norah’s Infinite Playlist
Strangers With Candy
For other film reviews, please check out my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!
© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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