Once upon a time, Kristen Bell had a promising career. With the loss of Buffy, she seemed to be the new snarky bad ass woman of TV in Veronica Mars, and then she had a decent run on Heroes before it started getting really bad. Even though her character was fairly unlikeable in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, she still managed to give that role some charm. Then came When in Rome, a film that, along with Pulse, she’ll probably wish could be stricken from her resume.
Kristen Bell plays some clichéd rom-com woman too busy with her job (we know this because she tells us constantly) to care about finding a man, yet still yearns for a “Knight In Shining Armor” to sweep her off her feet. She jets off to Rome where her younger sister – who looks nothing like her – is marrying an Italian man seemingly only for his looks and his accent. Bell gets irritated with her cell service and spots Mr. Fergie (Josh Duhamel) yakking away on his cell phone. Her pick up line? “I am so jealous of your cell service.” Because she’s so into her job. Do you get it yet?
She and Mr. Fergie share a dance together and she gets all googly eyed at him, but after the wedding, she spots him kissing another woman. The horror! In a drunken rage, she jumps into a mystical fountain and steals coins out of it unknowing that stealing the coins will make the coin thrower fall desperately in love with her. Her coin throwers are such dreamy catches as: Napoleon Dynamite, Will Arnett (who should be ashamed), Dax Shepard (who I don’t think is acting in this), and Danny DeVito (yes, that Danny DeVito), and they pursue her in one crazy situation after another throughout the whole movie.
The only major dilemma is, did Mr. Fergie throw a coin in the fountain or not? Is their love real? Who cares! They fall in love after just one date anyway.
Napoleon Dynamite/Jon Heder plays a street magician, and the two are one in the same in this film. Pedro/Efran Ramirez plays the street magician’s creepy camera man. Odd. Danny DeVito chases Bell around as best he can, Arnett paints a nude mural of her on a public wall, and Shepard just takes his shirt off every chance he can get. Randomly, Anjelica Huston plays Bell’s boss and Don Johnson plays Bell’s father. What they’re doing here is beyond me.
About halfway through this movie, I wasn’t sure if it was just bad or if it was one of those Bad Movies Done Right that Rob Saucedo is always talking about. At times I wanted to liken When in Rome to my favorite Bad Movie Done Right, the only rom-com with a magical crab, Simply Irresistible starring Sarah Michelle Gellar. But it never even achieved guilty pleasure status. That would require the characters to have some sort of vulnerability or personality. Writers David Weissman and David Diamond have given us the horrible Old Dogs, but have also written The Family Man and the underrated Evolution. Where did THAT kind of writing go?
Bell has no chemistry with anyone in this film except for her cell phone, and talks to pieces of artwork with more emotion than she does any of her co-stars. Like the god-awful Coach, starring Hugh Dancy, the only highlight of this film is a brief appearance by a TV star who is too good for the movie. When in Rome has a blink and you’ll miss it appearance by the super talented Lee Pace (I miss you, Pushing Daisies!). He appears within the first five minutes of the movie, so you can turn it off right after that and hope that the next film with Bell in it is better than this one.
I wish I could say that the Blu-ray’s 1080p make Mr. Fergie’s eyes sparkle, Dax Shepard’s abs look ever so defined, and makes Bell’s hideous wardrobe look that much more ugly, but I can’t. It really doesn’t matter when you’re watching a film as painful as this one. The sound quality was excellent, but the soundtrack is so cliche that it doesn’t matter either. Especially the annoying music playing over the menu screen. Ugh! I wanted to hit mute.
Alternate Opening/Ending – Wow, just when I thought the movie couldn’t get any worse. At least they cut these scenes. (7:17)
Crazy Casanovas: Mischief From The Set – The actors talk about their characters and we get to see some behind the scenes shenanigans. And then the director comes on and tells us this bit of stupidity: When they went to Rome to film, they had to build their own fountain. Rome is FULL of fountains!! He says, and I quote, “There is no Fountain of Love.” So PICK ONE!!! Or don’t even bother shooting in Rome, just build a set on a soundstage in LA or somewhere. The stupidity is astounding. (12:28)
Extended Pain With The Suitors – More yuks from the guys. (2:39)
Kerplunk: Bloopers From Rome – Your standard blooper reel. (3:07)
Deleted Scenes – There are eight total, all are deserving of their fate on the cutting room floor. (7:45)
Music Videos – “Starstrukk” by 3OH3! and Katy Perry, “Stupid Love Letter” by Friday Night Boys
Trailers – The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Lost: The Final Season on blu-ray
Maybe I disliked this film so much because when I first saw the trailers for it, I thought it looked kinda good. Yeah I know, I know. Now I’ve learned my lesson: Go visit Rome, don’t watch When in Rome.
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents When In Rome. Directed by: Mark Steven Johnson. Starring: Kristen Bell, Josh Duhamel, Dax Shepard, Danny DeVito, Will Arnett. Written by: David Diamond, David Weissman. Running time: 91 minutes. Rating: PG-13. Released on DVD: June 15, 2010. Available at Amazon.com.
Jenny is proud to be the First Lady of Inside Pulse Movies. She gives female and mommy perspective, and has two kids who help with rating family movies. (If they don't like 'em, what's the point?) She prefers horror movies to chick flicks, and she can easily hang with the guys as long as there are several frou-frou girlie drinks to be had.