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When In Rome

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Jon Heder, Will Arnett, Danny DeVito, Dax Shepard and Kristen Bell in 'When In Rome'

© Touchstone Pictures

You wait for one romantic comedy whisking away a petite American blonde to Italy and two come along at once. If you thought Letters To Juliet was bad, wait until you get a load of Kristen Bell's When In Rome - it makes Amanda Seyfried's Mediterranean jaunt look like Citizen Kane! Director Mark Steven Johnson, he of Daredevil and Ghost Rider infamy, makes a drastic genre swerve but fares even worse in the world of rom-com than with Marvel Comics antiheroes. Here he sluggishly directs an awful script by Old Dogs pair David Diamond and David Weissman about an uptight New Yorker who pinches coins from a 'fountain of love' in Rome and finds herself pursued by a bunch of oddball suitors.

It's clumsily assembled from the start, rushing through an introduction to curator Beth (Bell) and her romantic misfortunes without an ounce of character development. When her younger sister Joan announces her whirlwind engagement to Italian Umberto, the action shifts to Rome for the wedding. Once there, Beth finds herself humiliated after failing to smash a vase to commemorate her sister's marriage. To make matters worse, she later botches a toast to the bride and groom. There is a silver lining in the form of best man Nick (Josh Duhamel), with whom she quickly establishes a rapport. However, after spying Nick with another woman, her misery is compounded and she drunkenly hoists coins from the mystical fountain, triggering feelings of love toward her from the four men the money belonged to.

When In Rome not only isn't particularly romantic - Bell and Duhamel have no chemistry - it's also completely devoid of laughs. Add that to the tedious and predictable plot and what's left is a rom-com that's not just bad, it's heading to Morgans levels of terribleness. Beth's four pursuers, who fail to stop the film from flatlining, are thinly drawn caricatures. There's a sleazy male model (Dax Shepard), an Italian painter with a Super Maro accent (Will Arnett), a flamboyant magician (Jon Heder) and, wait for it, a sausage impresario (Danny DeVito). The quartet are at least bizarrely amusing, such as when Heder's Napoleon Dynamite sidekick Efren Ramirez turns up for a head-scratching cameo and DeVito's earnest delivery of the line "encased meat is my life's work".

In the end, though, this is nothing more than a throwaway comedy clumsily assembled from a half-decent idea. That Danny DeVito and Anjelica Huston somehow got pulled along for the rude just makes it all the more tragic. Every twist, turn and shuffle of When In Rome has been seen before so Beth's final reel fate is never in doubt. And since it's not much fun getting there in the first place, what's the point?


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