Beth [Kristen Bell] is the youngest curator at the Guggenheim Museum and in charge of her first big show – fourteen major works that deal with pain. When she takes forty-eight hours off to attend her sister, Joan’s [Alexis Dziena] wedding in Rome, something weird happens – she meets Nick [Josh Duhamel], a guy whom she likes almost as much as her job. But when she sees him kissing a spectacular brunette in a tight red dress, she gets drunk and stumbles into the Fountain of Love.
In a moment of ill-conceived defiance, she takes four coins and apoker chip from the fountain – causing the men who tossed them there to suddenly fall passionate in love with her: Antonio [Will Arnett], a struggling artist; Lance [Jon Heder], a street magician [take that, Criss Angel!]; Gale, [Dax Shepard], a narcissistic male model, and Leo [Danny DeVito], the King of Sausage. Beth comes to believe that Nick is the fifth …
When she finds herself being pursued by all five of these men, wonders what could possibly have happened. Fortunately, Joan, on her honeymoon, has learned that if you take an offering from the fountain, those who threw the coins into the fountain will become passionately in love with you. The only way to break the spell is to return the coins to the fountain.
While the basics of the romantic comedy mean that the lead couple will wind up together, generally speaking, what makes the genre entertaining is finding fresh ways to take the couple on that journey. I haven’t seen anything like this before [or if I have, it was so bad that I expunged it from my memory].
Between the unwanted attention from her new fans [Antonio paints a nude of her on the side of a building; Lance tries a stunt hanging from the ceiling of her apartment; Leo sends her a bouquet of sausages] and losing the key piece to her show, Beth becomes more and more frayed.
When in Rome isn’t the sprightliest romantic comedy I’ve seen, but it puts a few new wrinkles into the boy/girl meets girl/boy formula that more than make up for its lapses. Bell and Duhamel have great chemistry and the supporting cast – especially Kate Micucci [Scrubs’ ukulele girl] as Beth’s assistant, Stacey – is much better than usual. True, they didn’t Zach Galifianakis for the Zach Galifianakis role [Nick’s best friend, Puck], but you can’t have everything.
Mark Steven Johnson [Daredevil, Ghost Rider] does manage to keep several balls in the air well enough that moments of idiot plotting go almost unnoticed. The script, by David diamond and David Weissman, is fluffy but not entirely dim – though making an art show around the topic of pain a central plot point is not the funniest of ideas. If not for a couple of idiot plot moments [you’ll likely know them when you see them – but I will say that one, in the third act, involves the fountain], and a slightly lighter directorial touch, I’d say it was much better than average. As it is, I laughed enough while watching When in Rome to recommend it. It ain’t art, but it is funny.
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