Scatterbrained and Silly
When in Rome is a blue-ribbon endorsement of the late-winter movie season as the time when bad movies are dumped on the market with hopes of duping a few thousand people out of their money. The movie is not funny, there’s very little romance, and the screenplay by David Diamond and David Weissman -- who do nothing here to better their Old Dogs legacy -- is just a brainless mess of silly characters doing stupid things on camera. Everyone involved should be completely embarrassed.
The scatterbrained plot, which was mostly revealed in the trailers, involves perky workaholic museum curator Beth (Kristen Bell) taking a trip to Rome where she inadvertently casts a spell, causing five random men to suddenly fall in love with her. Seems that the coins she pilfered from Rome’s Fountain of Love cause the original owners to fall head-over-heels in love with her. But unfortunately, the magical spell doesn’t explain how the five men eventually find her in the middle of Manhattan, and why she doesn’t call the authorities as they repeatedly creepy-stalk her. But then again, the script never explains away any of the other twenty-or-so plot problems either.
We’re supposed to fall in love with the beautiful Rome location shots. But they’re all filmed with an oversaturated lens, making them feel fake and forced. The vibrant glow of the late evening golden hour plays beautifully against the rustic Italian stonework. But the overuse of the treatment brings too much attention to itself… especially when it’s utilized no matter what time of time of day it is.
Soon enough Beth ends up back in New York where her crazy suitors will, one-by-one, carry out their ridiculous attempts to sweep her off her feet. There’s the wacky street artist (Will Arnett), the vain male model (Dax Shepard), the mysterious street magician (Jon Heder), and the sleazy sausage magnate (Danny DeVito), each of whom will repulse Beth -- as well as the audience -- with their over-the-top attention-getting antics. They chase her through Central Park trying to see her feet (don’t ask) and appear in her apartment uninvited. Yet she never calls the police?
The film works best when Bell and leading man Josh Duhamel are on the screen together. Nick’s coin was one of the items Beth found in the fountain. There’s a wee bit of romantic spark between the two actors, but it’s difficult to tell when director Mark Steven Johnson insists on keeping the distraction level around them in maximum overdrive. The wacky side characters always manage to derail any chemistry the two are able to muster up.
Anjelica Huston manages not to embarrass herself, but her character is so one-dimensional, she doesn’t do anything to deserves praise. She’s Beth’s boss at the Guggenheim and seems to be channeling Streep’s hard-edged Miranda Priestly, but comes off as just bitchy rather than right. A cameo by Don Johnson is a pleasant surprise amongst the madness, but all too soon, we realize that will be squandered as well. Doe-eyed Kate Micucci shows a lot of promise as Bell’s secretary. She’s a cute little version of Illeana Douglas.
When in Rome is properly slotted in the late January dead zone, so we know not to expect much. But no one should have expected it to be this bad.
(Released by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures and rated “PG” for some suggestive content.)
Review also posted at www.franksreelreviews.com.