When in Rome
dir Mark Steven Johnson
scr David Diamond, David Weissman
prd Rikki Lea Bestall, Gary Foster, Mark Steven Johnson, Andrew Panay, Ezra Swerdlow
with Kristen Bell, Josh Duhamel, Anjelica Huston, Danny DeVito, Will Arnett, Dax Shepard, Jon Heder, Alexis Dziena, Don Johnson, Peggy Lipton, Luca Calvani, Lee Pace
release US 29.Jan.10, UK 25.Jun.10
10/US Touchstone 1h31
When in Rome
Coins in a fountain: Bell and Duhamel

huston devito arnett
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
When in Rome Despite its over-the-top zaniness, this romantic comedy manages to keep us entertained with its starry cast and a nutty plot. If only the filmmakers had resisted the urge to exaggerate both the humour and the sentimentality.

Guggenheim curator Beth (Bell) is organising an important museum event when she has to dash to Rome for her sister's sudden wedding, where she begins to fall for best man Nick (Duhamel), who rescues her from a few embarrassing moments but lets her down romantically. In a funk, she swipes some coins from a fountain then ends up being stalked back in New York by the lovelorn guys (painter Arnett, wannabe model Shepard, street magician Heder and art patron DeVito) who threw them into the water.

The film takes a bright and wacky tone from the start, with broad comical touches such as having Beth run into her ex (Pace) with spinach on her teeth, get humiliated in front of her peers and break a heel. All within the film's first five minutes. So we pretty much know that this trip to Rome is going to be a madcap disaster. Sure enough, the slapstick only escalates from there, most of the time stretching the gag far beyond the breaking point.

The problem is that Beth is supposed to be a high-flier, and yet she seems to get everything wrong. Bell and Duhamel actually manage to give their characters enough charisma to be likeable, although everyone around them overacts shamelessly (and Duhamel has his moments). Director Johnson clearly encouraged the cast to mug for the cameras, indulge in corny pratfalls and speak in sketch-comedy accents. In other words, this is a simplistic movie with an unimaginative script.

This is one of those films in which neither the cast nor crew seem to trust their potentially engaging premise, even though all of them have plenty of talent. But every scene descends into preposterous, unfunny farce. The clowning gets annoying very quickly, and it's certainly not helped by groan-inducing cheesiness. Even so, moments of genuine charm let us see glimpses of what this film could have been.

cert pg themes, innuendo 10.Jun.10

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© 2010 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall