When In Rome Mark Steven Johnson

When In Rome Mark Steven Johnson
Early in When in Rome, Beth (Kristen Bell), a broken-hearted single gal/junior Guggenheim curator, flies to Rome for her sister's wedding. Tradition dictates that the bridesmaid must break a vase — each broken piece symbolizing one year of marital happiness — but when Beth drops the vase to the cement floor, it remains in mint condition.

Frustrated, Beth picks it up and bangs it on the floor repeatedly, then throws it in the air (accidentally breaking a tray of glasses), tosses it in the air again (accidentally hitting an angry old grandma), and whacks it several times with a microphone stand before handsome young Nick (Josh Duhamel) simply picks it up and lobs it at the wall; tiny shards of pottery fly in every direction. The obvious question: if Nick could break the vase so easily just by throwing it at a wall, why could Beth barely dent it by whacking it with a mic stand? The scene has a potentially funny set-up but no internal logic, and the result is agonizingly unfunny.

The same could be said for the rest of the film. Slightly drunk and very depressed after the wedding, Beth picks four coins from Rome's Fountain of Love, not knowing that this will cause whoever put the coins in the fountain to fall in love with her. Pity the poor caretaker who has to clean the fountain on a regular basis, but never mind.

Returning to New York, Beth finds that four suitors have followed her, convinced that she is the love of their lives. They are: a sausage mogul, an artist, an amateur model and a magician, played by Danny DeVito, Will Arnett, Dax Shepard and Jon Heder, in a competition for who can give the most god-awful performance. Not only does the magic spell make them fall in love, but it evidently makes them insane, with each of these Pepé Le Pews chasing Beth around town in a manner that can safely be described as "stalker-ish."

I wish I could accept this premise on its own silly terms, but when Beth walks into her apartment to find Heder performing a complicated magic trick, I couldn't help thinking that a simple restraining order would have ended this whole thing much more efficiently.

Bell is charming, pretty and has reasonably strong chemistry with Duhamel, but this movie is a contrived collection of goofy voices and random pratfalls hung on an annoyingly stupid plot.

I suppose movies like this serve a function: Avatar can't open every week, and those 24 screens at the jumbo AMC theatres aren't going to fill themselves, so we need little mediocrities like this to march in, make $30 million, and keep the staff busy before heading to DVD purgatory.

Fine, I get it. But not even mediocrities should be this bad. (Touchstone)