WHEN IN ROME
Cast: Kristen Bell, Josh Duhamel, Will Arnett, Dax Shperard, Danny DeVito, Jon Heder, Anjelica Huston
Writer: Mark Steven Johnson, David Diamond, David Weissman
Director: Mark Steven Johnson
Release: 29 January 2010
Touchstone Pictures, 91 mins., Rated PG-13
The impressive cast behind When in Rome is far more talented than its screenplay, and by golly, they seriously do as much as they can to make the imperfections of the script seem evaporated. Which, in a strange way, doesn't mean that I didn't enjoy my time; I did, quite a lot, which is rather confusing. So I have thus concluded that the below average script lead by some brilliant actors meshed and resulted in a movie that's by my standards quite OK, 'just fine', and 'alright.' There's moments that just make you wince (did they really write that and film that?), and there's also some painfully joyous gags that either force a wide smile or make yah crack up.
Beth Harper (Bell) is the job-first, life-second type of gal, completely immersed in her job. A big art gallery showing is going down soon, and she's in charge of it, so the announcement of a quickie wedding in Rome for her young sister isn't all that opportune...or is it??? She meets the charming Nick (Duhamel), and screws herself over by grabbing some coins out of the legendary Fountain of Love. By taking those coins, the owners of those coins (Arnett, Shepard, Heder, DeVito) become inexplicably smitten with her, following her around and professing their love. Nick, the dude she sorta fell for at the wedding, wants to give them a shot, but Beth in uncertain if his feelings are genuine or a result of the whole Rome/coin debacle. The gallery showing's coming up, she has a bunch of guys fawning after her, and love is in the air - but with who? Oh, the predicament of a beautiful 20-something New York gal.
First thing's first: I love me some Kristen Bell. Aside from the whole beautiful thing she's got going on (quite the curse), she's also a phenomenal actress. Her role choosing has been a bit dodgy lately (Couples Retreat), and I don't quite seeing this working as a long-term career goal, but her stint on the three-season long Veronica Mars dispels any wavering of confidence. This gal is a actress, and she is one of the best young talents around...period. And then there's Josh Duhamel, who I'm most familiar with in Transformers (as I'm sure many are). There's just something so damn charming about this dude. For all I know, he could be the biggest douche in the land, but I can't help but love whenever he's on screen - he's funny, he's cool, and he comes across as a dude you'd love to hang out with. Anjelic Huston plays her stern boss, and during the entirety of the flick I couldn't figure out who the gal was. Turns out she's from NBC's Medium (not CBS), at least that's how I know the gal. I thought she had some connection to Battlestar Galactica, but I was wrong...
As the men "in love" with Beth, these four guys are great. Danny DeVito is the sausage man (as in owning a company that sells sausage), reeling over the grief of a deceased wife and just wants to be loved; Jon Heder (along with his Pedro friend from Napoleon Dynamite) the street magician, who offers a large majority of the laughs; Will Arnett, the artist obsessed with making Beth look 'perfect' in his paintings in a equally uproarious role; and Dax Shepard (Bell's real-life boyfriend of four years - lucky bugger!), who is completely in love with himself - nearly as much as he is with Beth. Heder is the prime point of hilarity, with Arnett coming second. Near the climax, Arnett provides transportation in a race to get to the gallery - and the drive in this form of transportation is hilarious. Unexpected, funny, and completely uncomfortable (for them). Har-har.
The script ranges from good, OK, to dumb. The good: the dark restaurant, Nick 'translating' Beth's speech in Greek, and the lovely car. The dumb: Beth attempting to break the vase, Beth losing her mind whether or not Nick's love is 'real', Beth not confronting her lovers head-on, her taunting the Fountain of Love, moments like that. The OK: anytime with Beth and her devotees has a certain amount of charm, as does the scenes with Beth and Nick, who aside from being acted well, is scripted decently enough that there just might be a hint of chemistry between these two. I think the biggest disservice to this material is even introducing the Fountain of Love in the first place; the movie had more than enough gas to be a mono-e-mono romance flick between Beth and Nick; the lovers was a funny addition, but not exactly crucial. And one last note: Mark Steven Johnson, director of Daredevil and Ghost Rider, helms this flick in which he also co-wrote. It's interesting three dudes came together to write a rom-com, and to see the finished product, which is neither awesome or extremely bad. Basically, if you need to fill you romance movie quota of the week, When in Rome more than suffices. And for guys, we got Kristen Bell to google for a hour and a half - where's the downside?