I am about to review another recent film that the critics absolutely hated. While I admit it isn’t a great film in any sense of the word, I have a difficult time being as hard on it as others have been.
Granted, the plot is a bit contrived and many of the performances are silly. However, it does manage to do something that I like. It made me laugh. Therefore, I refuse to call it totally bad.
The film is entitled “When in Rome” and it stars Kristen Bell, Josh Duhamel, Anjelica Huston, Will Arnett Dax Shepard and Danny DeVito.
Bell plays Beth, an art museum curator who is in the process of putting together a major show for the Guggenheim, under the stellar eye of Huston’s character, Celeste. But in the midst of it all, she has to go to Rome to be in her sister’s wedding.
It is there that she meets and falls for Nick (Duhamel). He is the groom’s best man and her hero more than once when she makes major Italian faux pas.
Unlucky in love, Beth isn’t too keen on the emotion until she sees something in Nick that speaks to her. However, that doesn’t last long when she views him hugging and kissing another woman at the wedding.
Disappointed in herself for even thinking about taking the love leap, she decides to laugh at love by taking coins out of the famed Fountain of Love. She removes five of them.
With each coin’s removal, the audience is treated to a picture of the man who originally threw the coin into the fountain. One is an American artist who pretends to be Italian named Antonio (Arnett). One is a self-absorbed model named Gale (Shepard). One is a street magician (played by John Heder) One is a meat salesman (DeVito). She comes to believe that the fifth one is Nick.
One by one the men find their new love interest and pursue her full force. At first Beth doesn’t know what is happening but her sister clues her in to the fountain’s legend. It seems that removing a coin from the fountain ensures that the person who threw it in will fall in love with you.
Beth wants to be happy that one of the men pursuing her is Nick. On the other hand, she cannot be because she thinks it is all about the spell and not about her.
She eventually gives in; however, and meets with Nick; falling even more head over heels in love. Then when he comes to her show’s rescue with his own unique piece of art she is compeletely consumed by the emotion.
In the end; however, Beth decides that she can’t use Nick in that way and she sends him packing, intending to return his and all of the other men’s coins to them. That way the respective spells can be broken.
A small part of the problem with this film must lie with the actors. Arnett, Shepard and Heder all over-act their roles. Even Duhamel, who can be a good comedic actor, lays it on a bit thick from time to time.
However, having said that, I think the real blame had much more to due with the poor direction of Mark Steven Johnson and the bad character development of writers David Diamond and David Weismann. They went for a combination of slapstick and charming comedy where one or the other would have fared better.
When it comes down to romance, Duhamel pulls it altogether and proves to have good connection with Bell. The leading actress, by the way, is the best part of the whole movie. She doesn’t allow herself to be led too far astray and manages to imbue Beth with some dignity in spite of the ridiculous situations into which she is put.
Huston’s role is a good one but it could have been larger. It was almost a throwaway part, which is well beneath an actress of her stature.
DeVito manages to control is character as well and comes across with some heart rather than just silliness and stupidity. Bravo for him!
I also think poor editing may have hurt this film. Some of the scenes seemed chopped up, without enough explanation of their inclusion.
All in all, this certainly could have been a much better film. However, I can’t really slam it with the same vile comments that some critics have. It entertained me so I’m happy.
I give “When in Rome” two and one-half stars. I have seen a lot worse.
RATING SCALE USED:
0 = A stinker. Don’t waste the money!
1 = Bad. Rent it at your own risk.
2 = Below average. See only if you have time to kill.
2.5 = Average. A toss up.
3 = Good. Worth a looksee.
3.5 = Very Good. I recommend it.
4 = Excellent. Don’t miss it!
4.5 = Outstanding. What are you waiting for?
5 = Destined to become a classic. You will be sorry if you don’t see it.