By JP Chapman | January 28, 2010
Director: Mark Steven Johnson
Writers: Mark Steven Johnson, David Diamond, David Weissman
Starring: Josh Duhamel, Kristen Bell, Will Arnett, Jon Heder, Dax Shepard, Danny DeVito, Anjelica Houston, Don Johnson
Have you ever experienced one those moments in life in which you’re so annoyed and/or uncomfortable that you would do nearly anything to escape the immediacy of the moment? If so, you’ll have a good idea of the experience accompanying When In Rome. In what feels like a second rate version of Enchanted, director Mark Steven Johnson and cast manage to suck all the soul and hilarity that normally accompany some truly talented actors and deliver a sincerely terrible movie.
When In Rome centers on the busy-body life of Beth Harper, a curator at the Guggenheim, as played by Kristen Bell. Beth is married to her job, and is far too busy to entertain the possibility of falling in love. When her younger sister announces she’s getting married in a matter of days to a man she’s known for just a few weeks, Beth is more than a little skeptical of the prospects of longevity for their blossoming relationship. Despite her misgivings, Beth jets off to Italy for the wedding, all while trying to finish up her big show coming up at the Guggenheim. At the wedding, she begins to fall for the best man, a nice guy named Nick Beamon (played by Josh Duhamel). However; she immediately abandons the idea of love again after she sees him kissing another woman. In a Goonies-esque moment, she takes back wishes for love in the form of coins from a famous fountain. Unbeknownst to Beth, taking this action carries repercussions with it, causing the men that threw these coins in the fountain to fall hopelessly in love with her (as played by Jon Heder, Will Arnett, Dax Shepard, and Danny DeVito). Pursued to New York by her suitors, Beth spends the rest of the movie wrestling with the idea of love, getting her big show on track, and trying to figure out why a bunch of guys are suddenly in love with her!
From the dialogue, to the acting, to the general sense of carelessness behind the writing, When in Rome is a mess. Opening in New York, cliché after cliché is thrown out from the get go, while the writing seems to mirror a Disney sitcom. Although it never happened, I half expected characters to knowingly wink at the camera, adding even more to the sad redundancy of the film. Beyond this, most of the humor is delivered via poor versions of slapstick pratfalls or caricatures of characters from previous movies. What confuses me the most about When In Rome is that in the midst of all of this, we have what are the makings of a potentially great cast—topped most disappointingly by Anjelica Houston and Danny DeVito. Anjelica Houston! We’re talking about an award winning actress. Sadly, the majority of her lines were delivered in what felt like outtake versions of her normal delivery and affirmed for me the sense that virtually every actor(tress) in this film was there merely for the paycheck. I could go on and on, but I can say that I actually had some hope for this film, seeing Will Arnett, Jon Heder, Danny DeVito, etc. were a part of it. Instead, I was disappointingly left with the best performance of the film possibly being carried out by Dax Shepard…need I say more?
Mark Steven Johnson and Touchstone pictures should be ashamed. When In Rome manages to fail in nearly every category: poor writing, lazy directing, and a cast that can’t deliver. Don’t waste your time on this one.