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.
And this is coming from a guy that likes romantic comedies, mind you.
The only plus side that When In Rome on Blu-ray possesses is its A/V presentation. Touchstone Pictures gives us the bird with a 1080p/AVC transfer, which, by all rights, should present itself in a much more dignified manner than it does — but, seeing as how this is just another romantic comedy flick, the cinematography, contrast, and colors weren’t great to begin with. Everything here on the video front is fine. Just “fine.” Not breathtaking or thrilling or anything like that — but just “fine.” If I had to use one phrase to sum it up, it’d be: “Bland…in High-Def!”
On the flip side of the A/V coin is a DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio surround track that is the perfect soulmate to the video presentation. The romantic comedy genre has never been known for its kick-ass, balls-to-the-wall audio mixes (I think there’s an engine revving up at one point in the film that may enable your subwoofer to wake up), and so, once again, it’s very good for what it is, but nothing special. “Dull…in DTS-HD!”
Special features include an alternate opening and closing sequence (do they dance over the closing credits in the other version? Ha, ha, I’m not telling!), several deleted scenes (they couldn’t delete the whole movie — I mean, they had to release something after spending all that money, right?), a few behind-the-scenes moments of “whoop-de-shit,” and two music videos for two of the film’s irritating soundtrack ditties. An assortment of trailers is also included — which I found more interesting than anything else.
In short: When In Rome, remember to do as the Romans do — and burn this mutha down.