When In Rome
Review by Jack Foley
FROM shaky premise to laboured direction, Disney’s When In Rome is a spectacularly mis-judged attempt at a rom-com.
Penned by the duo behind the equally inept Old Dogs, and directed by the man behind Ghost Rider and Dare-Devil (Mark Steven Johnson), the film is a tedious and cliché-ridden experience that consistently falls flat on its face.
Kristen Bell stars as work-obsessed New Yorker Beth, who – disillusioned with love – defiantly plucks five magic coins from a fountain of love while in Rome to celebrate her sister’s wedding, thereby igniting the passion of the men who threw them in.
When they follow her home to woo her, she must try and break the spell while keeping the one among them (Josh Duhamel’s reporter) who might genuinely love her.
Admittedly, Rome has provided the backdrop for some of the all-time great movie romances, from Three Coins In The Fountain to Roman Holiday, but Johnson’s movie comes nowhere close to recapturing the spirit of either of those, failing even to spend enough time in the Eternal City.
He also makes the dubious decision to create a fictional fountain of love, which merely adds to the false feel surrounding the whole of proceedings.
Bell and Duhamel do, to their credit, make for an attractive couple of leads and deserve a much better screenplay from which to work their obvious charm. But they’re left wanting by some of the more ludicrous elements of the story, which divides its time between having Beth pursued all over New York by a particularly annoying set of suitors, and having Duhamel’s reporter keep walking into things.
Of the other potential love interests, Danny De Vito struggles as a sausage maker, Will Arnett is criminally wasted as an Italian artist, and Jon Heder and Dax Shephard fail to bring any charisma or likeability to their roles as, respectively, a magician and a self-obsessed male model.
The presence of Anjelica Huston, meanwhile, as a mean-spirited boss is simply baffling, particularly as she’s barely in the movie, while Don Johnson plays on his hangdog charm as Beth’s father… but is given next to nothing to do save for reminding us that he’s still in the business.
Even at 90 minutes, When In Rome feels like a drag… which is likely to leave you feeling more angry than amorous come the predictably overblown finale.
It really is one to file under, ‘what were they thinking?’
Running time: 90mins
UK DVD Release: October 18, 2010