The first thing you need to know about When in Rome is it doesn’t take place in Rome (give or take ten minutes).
Kristen Bell stars as Beth, a workaholic museum curator. Although Beth is the youngest curator of the Guggenheim, her job which pays her enough for the following: a spacious Manhattan apartment, a last-minute flight to Rome, and a closet of designer fashion. Who knew curators got paid so well?
Anywho, Beth travels to Rome to attend the wedding of her more impulsive younger sister and fall for her new brother-in-law’s best man, Nick (Josh Duhamel). They meet cute, have a few misadventures over the course of the evening, and then part due to a misunderstanding (didn’t see that coming!) that only ever occurs in movies like this.
In a fit of rage Beth curses love and removes a handful of coins from a nearby fountain which causes four strangers (Will Arnett, Jon Heder, Dax Shepard, Danny Devito) to follow her back to New York and proclaim their undying love.
Will Beth and Nick get together? Will the shenanigans of her new suitors and the pressure of putting together an event for the museum cause Beth problems with her boss (Anjelica Huston)? Will a late twist derail Beth’s future happiness? Even without seeing the film you know the answers to these questions. A lobotomized monkey knows the answers to these questions.
While When in Rome isn’t wretched, it is pretty damn bad. I can’t blame Bell or Duhamel, who do what they can with the script filled with ridiculous premises (such as unlikely coincidences, constant misunderstandings, and a restaurant which serves patrons in 100% darkness).
After a well-executed title sequence, we are thrown into what might be the worst opening scene for any movie ever made. Ever. At a gala Beth is confronted and humiliated by the appearance of an old boyfriend (a pie-maker with the power to bring people back from the dead) in front of her friends and a room full of strangers. Neither funny nor entertaining in the slightest, it’s a testament to Bell that she manages to salvage something from such an inauspicious start.
Aside from providing a couple chuckles the film does do one or two things worth mentioning. There’s a nice chemistry between the two leads and Sonny Crockett has fun with a small supporting role as Beth’s father (though Tubbs is nowhere to be seen). And, although a rather lame contraption, the premise of the love curse does at least explain the odd behaviors of the characters (unlike most romcoms where characters act crazy for no reason at all). These may all be small points, but it’s better than nothing at all.
Even if you’re a Kristen Bell fan there’s little reason not to let this one pass by. I know good roles for actresses are hard to come by, but I wish so many of them wouldn’t slum in movies like this. (Seriously, wouldn’t it be less humiliating to do porn?) Unless you’re addicted to bad romantic comedies, or are dragged to this one by your better half, I’d suggest plopping in Win a Date with Tad Hamilton, or an episode of Veronica Mars, into your DVD player instead.