Mark Reviews Movies


Zero Stars (out of 4)

Director: Mark Steven Johnson

Cast: Kristen Bell, Josh Duhamel, Will Arnett, Jon Heder, Dax Shepard, Danny DeVito, Kate Micucci, Anjelica Huston

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for some suggestive content)

Running Time: 1:31

Release Date: 1/29/10

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Review by Mark Dujsik | January 28, 2010

When in Rome is an absolutely, positively, undeniably worthless thing. This is more than an overblown reaction to being subjected to lazy romantic comedies. To call this movie a crappy romantic comedy wouldn't just be a slight against crappy romantic comedies, it would be an insult to crap.

Yes, When in Rome features the typical clichés, but, not only that, it uses loads of them with such frequency that the movie also seems to be flaunting its reliance on tried, tired, and oh-so-familiar-to-the-point-of-rote elements. Movies cannot possess emotions, but if they could, this movie hates you.

Our heroine is Beth (Kristen Bell), a Professional Woman, who is always busy with work. Of course, as is the case with the concept of a movie-ordained Professional Woman, she wants a fairytale romance and to fall in love and get married. When she meets a guy she loves more than her job, then she knows she's found her Mr. Right Prince Charming Man of Her Dreams.

Her job is an event coordinator for the Guggenheim Museum, although screenwriters David Diamond and David Weissman dub her a curator. She coordinates events, but that job is so done to death in these kinds of things that they decide to give her the job responsibilities but call it by a different name.

I don't think she loves her job. Her boss (Anjelica Huston) is insulting and authoritarian. Her employees are annoying little busybodies who eavesdrop on a conversation with her ex-boyfriend and wrongly announce that the guy has proposed to her, which leads to the first in a series of totally misfired jokes. This shows that everything gets worse for her love life. Embarrassed by the DJ telling the entire party she's engaged and finally breaking a heel, she returns to her apartment to discover that her little sister (Alexis Dziena) is engaged.

She meets Mr. Right Prince Charming at the sister's wedding in Rome. He's Nick (Josh Duhamel), who we learn through inference of very vague hints near the end of the movie is a sports journalist. She and Nick share similar cynical feelings about her sister's nuptial future and dance for a bit, so obviously, he's the one for her.

That meeting involves a vase that refuses to break but does a good job breaking champagne glasses and possibly an old woman's face, more champagne glasses causing a power outage at the wedding, and a case of mistaken affection for another woman that makes Beth think, once again, that she'll never meet Mr. Right. Drunkenly, she takes coins out of the famous Fountain of Love.

This is a mistake, because the guys who used to own those coins fall in love with her and stalk her throughout New York. There's the struggling artist (Will Arnett), the model (Dax Shepard), the street magician (Jon Heder), and the sausage tycoon (Danny DeVito). Here's what we learn about them: the artist has an Italian accent, the model is vain, the magician really likes sleight of hand, and the sausage guy is Danny DeVito.

They follow her around, and Nick tries to get a date with her. Most of these scenes end in pratfalls. The magician is attacked by pigeons while hovering outside of Beth's office window and falls. The artist accidentally cuts the line to his lift while painting a nude mural of Beth on a wall and falls. Nick has peripheral vision problems after he was struck by lighting while playing a football game in college (I'm dead serious) and falls a lot. He also runs into or almost runs into things right in front of him, so I think the damage might be greater.

The comedy fails on every, conceivable level but mainly in repetitive gags that weren't funny in the first place. There's also a horrific attempt to make Beth's Professional Woman dilemma serious by giving her divorced parents, which leads to a painfully written scene in which she explains why she thinks everything in her love life will go wrong and compares it to one of Picasso's lovers. She hung herself. That story would be a good place to cut off ties.

Even more uncomfortable is Beth and Nick's first date at a restaurant in which the room is pitch black and the wait staff uses night-vision goggles to act creepy (smelling Nick, pretending to leave, and otherwise scaring customers). The screen goes completely dark for a few, refreshing moments, and then we have to put up with those four idiotic caricatures again. Fair warning: They never go away.

This goes on and on in a way that makes you wish you were wearing a watch. At least then there's the slim hope that the battery has died, which would be an explanation why time seem to have slowed to the point that it has ceased moving as you check it every five minutes. Everything is resolved, and then it's not, leading to an extraneous scene back in Rome that serves no narrative purpose except to extend the run time and forgets the first way to break the fountain's spell. It's right outside; use it.

One last thing: The movie appears to have been lit using the same type of florescent lighting you find at a warehouse store. When in Rome is painful.

Copyright © 2010 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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