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Movie Review: When In Rome

January 29, 2010

Just because I am a chick, it doesn’t mean that I am a champion of the romantic comedy.  It’s quite the opposite-you’d be hard pressed to find many I care to crow about.  I prefer horror and gore to a rom-com romp. There is so much drivel that tries to pass itself off as entertainment   (I’m looking at YOU, Leap Year, and YOU, The Proposal),  but I found this movie to be real breath of fresh air in a genre that has long since gone stagnant.

Kristen Bell plays Beth, an art curator, who is in the middle of planning a large benefit gala.  After she experiences a humiliating evening at the hands of her ex, Beth’s little sister shows up, squealing that she is engaged to be married to a man from Italy whom she has only known for two weeks.  They are getting married immediately, and Beth must fly to Italy to be the maid of honor.  She manages to clear a few days to attend, no thanks to her over-bearing boss played by Anjelica Huston.

During the dress rehearsal, a dashing groomsman (Nick, played by Josh Duhamel) catches her eye.  The two flirt the night away, and Beth is obviously being swept off her feet.  However, a misunderstanding about another woman derails her magical night, and she ends up having an impromptu pity party in a fountain with a bottle of champagne.  Before she leaves, she snags a few coins from the  ”fountain of love,” just for spite.

Once she is back in the New York, a colorful assortment of men literally start throwing themselves at her, professing their love.  Will Arnett, Dax Shepard, Jon Heder, and Danny Devito comprise this motley crew of suitors.  Beth discovers that she put a curse on them when she removed the coins they tossed in the fountain back in Italy.  Legend dictates that she “owns” their love, and the spell can only be broken by returning the coins to their rightful owners.

This is probably the weakest part of the film, as these normally good supporting actors are badly used and reduced to caricatures.  Arnett plays an artist, Heder is a street musician (initially funny, but gets old quickly), Shepard is a self adoring model, and DeVito is a sausage salesman.  None can be taken seriously as a plausible  romantic partner for Beth.

Meanwhile, Nick is captivated with her as well, and he convinces her to give him another chance.  He takes her to one of those ridiculously trendy and pretentious “dinner in the dark” places, and this sets up the most funny scene in the movie.  The premise itself is hilarious-pompous wait staff don night vision binoculars while restaurant patrons grope about for their utensils in the dark.  But when the lovesick foursome of men crash the date, it really becomes slapstick funny.

I believe that the movie owes much of its appeal to its two charismatic leads.  Bell and Duhamel are equally gorgeous, and share some really palpable chemistry. To the movie’s credit, there is very little physical contact, the two have sexual tension like Mulder and Scully.  When they actually kiss, it is so hot you will be clutching your pearls and reaching for the smelling salts.  I prefer this type of chaste romance to a bodice-ripper any day.

I find it refreshing to finally see a romantic comedy where the two leads are not total opposites, or hate each other, or have an antagonistic relationship, only to realize in the last ten minutes that they love one another.  Blech! These two are simply star-crossed lovers with an immediate attraction to one another, who have a little trouble making it to the finish line.

I also liked that Bell’s character seems genuinely frightened of getting hurt.  She is not just being  stubborn, bitchy, or contrarian.  She is scared, and who hasn’t been?  I know that the plot is absurd, but to me, the emotions rang true.

If you generally hate this type of movie,When In Rome won’t change your mind, but if you enjoy an occasional romantic comedy, you’ll have a good time.  It should be a great date movie, because the boys can ogle  the super cute Bell, and the ladies can swoon over Duhamel. At times it’s silly, but When In Rome is a sweet, effervescent escape for a few hours.  Simply adorable.

Rating 3.5/5


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