At her younger sister’s wedding in Rome, workaholic Beth (Kristen Bell) meets best man, sportswriter Nick (Josh Duhamel). They’re attracted to each other but soon argue. Inebriated on too much champagne, unhappy Beth wades into a (magic) fountain of love, conveniently located in front of the wedding hotel. She renounces love, picks up four coins and a poker chip — tossed into the fountain by lovesick men — drops the five love tokens into her evening bag, and flies back to New York. Little does she know, four of the men live in NYC, and all have fallen magically and madly in love with her because she has the coins. The men pursue her while she and Nick try to get together. That’s the setup.
Are Beth and Nick a match? Do Beth’s goofy suitors keep her from Nick? Who tossed the fifth token — the poker chip — into the fountain? Will you care, should you ignore this review and see “When in Rome”?
Kristen Bell and Josh Duhamel are romantic leads Beth and Nick. They’re attractive and work hard, but an unfunny script and heavy-handed direction allow them little chance to show their acting skills. Beth is a no-nonsense career woman, a dedicated curator at the Guggenheim where she’s in charge of a major exhibit of fine art — depicting pain. She’s chronically cynical about love. “We wait our whole life for the perfect man to sweep us off our feet,” she says. “But guess what? He’s not gonna come.” For his part, Duhamel speaks with a bit of wit and, for laughs, bumps into things. Everything. A disability he got from an old football injury. “I was struck by lightning,” he says. I think that’s another joke about pain. Pain is supposed to be funny in this movie, but it’s just lame.
Will Arnett, Jon Heder, Dax Shepard and Danny DeVito play the four annoying, hapless suitors. Each has a quirk. Arnett is a wannabe artist, but can’t paint feet. Heder is an inept street magician. Shepard’s male model takes off his shirt everywhere. DeVito is in the sausage business. “Encased meat is my life,” he says. Others in the cast include Anjelica Huston, wasted as Beth’s art museum boss. Don Johnson is Beth’s philandering dad. “You refuse to fall in love,” he says, “and I can’t stop.”
“When in Rome” is a lowbrow, unfunny attempt at a romantic comedy. Mark Steven Johnson directed. David Diamond and David Weissman (last year’s “Old Dogs”) are to blame for the script. They wrote DeVito’s line: “I’m your liverwurst nightmare.” You get the picture.
Rated PG-13 for suggestive content, the film lasts just 91 minutes. Stay home. Rent a real romantic comedy: “Roman Holiday” (1954).
Witless “When in Rome,”
Painfully unfunny —
My advice? Stay home.