Kristen Bell is a beautiful, relatively talented actress, but boy has she been making some bad movies lately. Couples Retreat was downright painful and just a few months later she continued the trend with When in Rome, a ridiculously unfunny romantic comedy that is best left to the bargain bin - and then only when combined with kerosene and a match.
Bell stars as Beth, an event planner preparing for a massive, career-defining party. When her sister decides on a last-minute wedding in Rome, Beth travels overseas and ends up meeting charming best man Nick (Josh Duhamel). She also takes several coins from the Trevi Fountain. Back in the States, she finds herself pursued by a series of creepy bachelors (played by Will Arnett, Jon Heder, Dax Shepard and Danny DeVito) - the original owners of the coins she took. Nick is also in hot pursuit, and while they quickly fall in love, she begins to suspect that he too only wants her because of the Roman spell.
Clearly, this is no Roman Holiday.
The movie is written by David Diamond and David Weissman, the writers of the miserable Old Dogs, and directed by Mark Steven Johnson, who is responsible for such classics as Daredevil and Ghost Rider. It makes me wonder what the executives at Walt Disney were thinking when they green lit this surefire hit: did they think that the combination of so many negatives would make a positive?
The problems are compounded by a synergy of terrible writing, poor direction, lazy acting and a disturbingly stupid plot. It also doesn't help that even though the movie is titled When in Rome, only a few minutes of the story take place in Italy. Furthermore, the entire production feels cheap, and in an attempt to overcome the screenplay's deficiencies, Johnson resorts to physical gags that stopped being funny 20 years ago.
Though the plot is pretty dumb, the real problem is the screenplay itself; the dialogue is terrible, the characters bland and the jokes painful. There are few if any funny parts, despite the inspired pairing of Napoleon Dynamite's Jon Heder and Efren Ramirez. The cast is extremely wasted given the talent involved; Arnett, Heder, Shepard and DeVito all have the potential to be hilarious, but none of them are. Bell is fine as the leading woman, but her character is completely uninteresting; Duhamel, unfortunately, turns in a bland performance.
When in Rome is an unmitigated disaster. The movie comes to DVD and Blu-Ray on Tuesday, June 15, and along with it an alternate opening and ending, deleted scenes, bloopers (which are just as unfunny as the movie itself) and some behind-the-scenes featurettes.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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