Sometimes, you hear the bullet with your name on it. Sadly, though, there are instances wherein the crafty cartridge disguises itself as an outwardly harmless romantic comedy flick starring Kristen Bell and Josh Duhamel. Well, for those of you who have been curious as to what may happen if you were to ever play Russian Cinematic Roulette, here’s a lethal dumdum of a film (or should that be “dumb, dumb?”) called When In Rome, that fits nicely into any chamber of any revolver.
Enter a world full of magical fountains, creepy artistes that are actually really nice guys, the discovery of the perfect soulmate, and other figments of a teenage girl’s overactive imagination. Beth (Kristen Bell) works for the Guggenheim Museum in New York, where she does lots of stuff and organizes unveiling parties for her assortment of stereotypical minor character pals. It’s during one of these parties that she learns her job is in jeopardy if she doesn’t make her own character less stereotypical and more interesting real soon — and so she’s soon ignoring all of her duties and flying off to Rome for her sister’s wedding.
Sure, it’s nerve-grating, but once our feature film takes Beth to Rome, it starts to grate even more. First off, Don Johnson strolls into frame and does his old Miami Vice shtick (oh, wait, that’s just how he talks, isn’t it?). Then, just as you’re about to pretend you have Attention Deficit Disorder so you can focus on something shiny on the wall instead, Beth begins to make a fool of herself in front of the local Italians (never an easy task) and meets a tall, dark, and handsome lad by the name of Tall Dark Handsome Lad (his Native American name), who bears a strong resemblance to that Josh Duhamel guy.
After the wedding, Beth gets hammered on Schlitz and decides to snatch a couple of pretty coins out of the fountain outside — which, as it turns out, is magical (it’s Italy, remember?). The fountain is actually the Fontana de Amore, where sad and desperate individuals toss their loose change into the water in hopes that they will meet someone without shelling out for eHarmony.com’s outrageous prices: people like Danny DeVito, Jon Heder, Will Arnett, and some other guy whose face made recoil in horror.
By pulling their coins out of the fountain, Beth inadvertently causes these hapless schmucks to fall madly in love with her. Back in New York, the freaks start crawling out of the woodwork to worship and adore her. It kind of creeps her out a little. Well, I think it creeps her out a little. Truth is, Kristen Bell and Josh Duhamel are so fucking bland in this sorry excuse for a rom-com that you probably won’t be able to tell. The four “suitors” are the most lively actors of the bunch — as they’re probably intended to be — but, true to form for most of them, ham it up to the point where it’s unbearable (think Dana Carvey, Rob Schneider, and David Spade starring onstage in an improvised play where they play all of the characters).
How does it end? Happily ever after, of course: mainly for our main characters (no one cares about the other, less-pretty people), but the opulence of exhilaration is mostly reserved for the actors who walked away from When In Rome with hella cash in their pockets. For the viewer, however, When In Rome is a pain parade: a uninteresting, unfunny, and thoroughly unoriginal debacle that even the most untailored romantic comedy onlookers should be ashamed to watch.