The scatterbrained plot, which was mostly revealed in the trailers, involves perky workaholic museum curator Beth (Kristen Bell) taking a trip to Rome where she inadvertently casts a spell, causing five random men to suddenly fall in love with her. Seems that the coins she pilfered from Rome's Fountain of Love - during a drunken dip - cause the original owners to suddenly fall head-over-heels in love with her. But unfortunately, the magical spell doesn't explain to a skeptical audience how the five men eventually find her in the middle of Manhattan, and why she doesn't call the authorities as they repeatedly creepy-stalk her. But then again, the script never explains away any of the other twenty-or-so plot problems either. We're asked to forgive a lot. I guess if you can, you'll get more enjoyment out of this stinker. I couldn't.
We're supposed to fall in love with the beautiful Rome location shots. But they're all filmed with an oversaturated lens, making them feel fake and forced. The vibrant glow of the late evening golden hour plays beautifully against the rustic Italian stonework. But the overuse of the treatment brings too much attention to itself... especially when it's utilized no matter what time of day it is.
Soon enough Beth ends up back in New York where her crazy suitors will, one-by-one, carry out their ridiculous attempts to sweep her off her feet. There's the wacky street artist (Will Arnett), the vain male model (Dax Shepard), the mysterious street magician (Jon Heder), and the sleazy sausage magnate (Danny DeVito), each of whom will repulse Beth as well as the audience - with their over-the-top attention-getting antics. They chase her through Central Park trying to see her feet (don't ask) and appear in her apartment uninvited. Yet she never calls the police?
The film works best when Bell and leading man Josh Duhamel are on the screen together. His Nick's was one of the coins Beth found in the fountain. There's a wee bit of romantic spark between the two actors, but it's difficult to tell when director Mark Steven Johnson insists on keeping the distraction level around them in maximum overdrive. The wacky side characters always manage to derail any chemistry the two are able to muster up.
Anjelica Huston manages to not embarrass herself, but her character is so one-dimensional, neither does she do anything that deserves praise. She's Beth's boss at the Guggenheim and seems to be channeling Streep's hard-edged Miranda Priestly, but comes off as just bitchy rather than right. A cameo by Don Johnson is a pleasant surprise amongst the madness, but all too soon, we realize that will be squandered as well. Doe-eyed Kate Micucci shows a lot of promise as Bell's secretary. She's a cute little version of Illeana Douglas.
When in Rome is properly slotted in the late January dead zone, so we know not to expect much. But no one should have ever expected it to be this bad.
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