Do as the Romans do and stay away from When in Rome

Arts & Entertainment/Film and TV by

Having endured recent atrocities committed in the rom-com genre (The Proposal, Leap Year) audiences deserve a watchable flick. Unfortunately, When In Rome – which opened in theatres on Friday – is another dreadful dud. Anyone who has seen the trailer or gaudy bumblebee-yellow movie poster already predicted this, but for the well-being of everyone else, it’s worth restating.

The plot revolves around Beth (Kristen Bell), a curator at the Guggenheim who is both beautiful and an independent career woman – the genre’s favourite version of feminism. Fed up with her busy yet man-free life, Beth travels to her sister’s wedding in Rome with her own agenda to find love. Apparently this twenty-something bombshell, with a job that treats PhDs like high school diplomas, can’t land a man … right!

On the wedding night, feeling single and sorry for herself, Beth downs a bottle of wine and spitefully snatches five coins from “The Fountain of Love.” Strange magical powers then make the original coin owners instantly fall in love with her. Beth’s suitors include a sausage salesman (Danny DeVito), a street magician (Jon Heder), a male model (Dax Shepard), and an Italian painter (Will Arnett). Then there’s Nick (Josh Duhamel), an ultra-hunk sports reporter with whom Beth feels a genuine connection. But is he just under the spell of the fountain or could he truly love her?

When in Rome attempts to mask its dismal script by bombarding its audience with excessive cameos. Anjelica Huston, Kristen Schaal, Kate Micucci, Alexis Dziena, Efren Ramirez, and Shaquille O’Neil are meaninglessly injected into the film at unexpected moments and then disappear with no further mention. Shaq, for example, shows up at a party, gets mad at Nick for spelling his name wrong, and then disappears, all in under 10 seconds. The film doesn’t even try to tap into the talent of its many hilarious actors, and instead produces unmemorable characters (I have never seen more wasteful use of Angelica Huston or Will Arnett), lifeless jokes, and a sorry excuse for romance.

Kristen Bell and Josh Duhamel could have been great in a different romantic comedy, but unfortunately they got stuck with this one. Any chemistry between these two is crushed by their preposterous lines: “I never want to see you in pain,” “I got hit by lightning,” and “You don’t love me, you’re just under a spell” come to mind as particular buzz-killers.

When in Rome is not worth the admission fee, nor the 90 minutes of your life. Instead watch Roman Holiday, the 1953 William Wyler film starring the oh-so-endearing Audrey Hepburn and swoon-worthy Gregory Peck. It will remind you that romantic comedies can be lovely.