Rated PG-13 for some suggestive content, 90 minutes
Forgettable rom com “When in Rome” lacks spark
“When in Rome” wants you to believe in the magic of love, though it lacks spark, spunk and believability to make it really work. The unmemorable film isn’t without energy and a handsome, game cast, but a weak script gives way to an uneven, unfunny and overly predictable romantic comedy.
Beth (“Heroes” Kristen Bell) is a young, ambitious New York City professional who’s been very unlucky in love. She goes to Rome for her younger sister’s (Alexa Dziena) wedding and runs into the dashing Nick (Josh Duhamel) and the two find some connection. However, just as Beth thinks there might be a spark between them, she is led to believe otherwise, gets drunk and steals some coins from a famous fountain known for its abilities to bring people together. Her new coins cast a spell over a few men (Dax Shepard, Danny DeVito, Jon Heder and Will Arnett) who along with Nick now aggressively seek out her companionship forcing her to make some difficult decisions about her newfound suitors.
“When in Rome” is an inept, flat romantic comedy that has an intriguing premise turns out not to be as funny as the trailers make it seem to be. There are a few fun, energetic moments and Bell and Duhamel make for a very attractive couple, but the candy coating gives way to a disappointing center that doesn’t really add up to much. The contrivances are huge for one – even for a romantic comedy – a genre that pushes the believability envelope; it’s really a stretch that all of these characters would end up on one side of the globe and back together again on the other.
Second, the film is busily filled with too many characters, most of whom aren’t likable to begin with (I didn’t find anything appealing about any of Beth’s potential suitors who seem more like stalkers and it wasted some talented actors in the process). Third, for a film with Rome in the title, it spends all of about 10 minutes of the movie there, which is unfortunate since Rome is one of the most romantic cities in the world. Throw in Anjelica Huston, Don Johnson (yes, that Don Johnson) and “Pushing Daisies’” Lee Pace in a cameo for good measure, and you have a bit of a mess that none of those talented actors can make better.
The uneventful direction from “Ghost Rider’s” Mark Steven Johnson and a messy script from “Old Dogs” writing team of David Diamond and David Weissman don’t exactly inspire any amorous feelings, and a stagey climax at the Guggenheim Museum feels way too forced. At any turn, this is something you’d expect Matthew McConaughey or Kate Hudson to turn up in (thankfully they don’t), which wouldn’t have helped much anyway.
I like Bell and Mr. Fergie himself Duhamel, but as cute a couple as they may be, they can’t save this forgettable, unfunny rom com, so they get up and dance over the credits with the rest of the cast. This may appeal to those desperately seeking a romantic comedy to warm up the cold winter nights. Too bad this won’t do the trick.