Bobby Moynihan, Anjelica Huston
- Rated PG-13
- Buy the BD
All photos © Walt Disney
Reviewed by David Medsker
here are times when batshit crazy is a good thing, when a movie flies in the face of convention in order to let it all hang out. The problem with “When in Rome” is that it confuses batshit crazy with noise and chaos, and what it leaves hanging out should be covered up. It’s poorly constructed, completely lacking in rhythm, lazy, and so far beneath Kristen Bell’s abilities as an actress, comedic or otherwise, that it’s looking up her skirt.
Bell is Beth, a curator at the Guggenheim Museum (more on this later) who flies to Rome for the quickie wedding of her sister Joan (Alexis Dziena). Beth meets cute at the wedding reception with the groom’s college roommate Nick (Josh Duhamel), but when she sees him kissing another girl, she steals coins from a so-called fountain of love nearby out of spite. By doing so, she casts an ironic spell on the tossers of those coins, who are now madly in love with her and follow her all over New York upon her return. The catch is that one of the coins is one of Nick’s poker chips, and even though the two clearly have chemistry, she has no idea how to tell him that he doesn’t really love her without sounding like a lunatic.
So let’s summarize the basic pieces of the story: twentysomething Beth is a curator at one of the biggest museums in the world. We see a staff meeting she attends; everyone in the room is old enough to be her mother or father, but Beth is the curator. She pulls five coins from the fountain, and not only were they all conveniently tossed by straight men (now, there’s a golden opportunity lost, on several levels), but four of them are American and, whaddaya know, New Yorkers.
Terrible, isn’t it? And those are the core building blocks to the story. The details are worse.
The opening scene involves spinach in the teeth and a DJ mixing with vinyl, presumably so he can make that ‘needle jumping the groove’ sound…twice. (The scene also involves a hilarious use of exposition, where one of Beth’s friends identifies someone as “Beth’s boyfriend” to the benefit of no one but the audience.) The wedding is in a beautiful Roman church that surely has a waiting list of three years or longer, yet they planned it all in two weeks. Jon Heder’s magician character Lance breaks into Beth’s apartment in order to surprise her with some ludicrous Houdini stunt. There is a scene in a pitch-black restaurant (don’t ask). Nick keeps running into things. No one in this movie looks comfortable, and the entire plot hinges on Beth not asking the most obvious question that someone in her position would ask. We’ll give them this, though: they gave the movie’s funniest line to Dax Shepard. Didn’t see that coming.
Kristen Bell is apparently telling her followers on Twitter that if “When in Rome” is a hit, it will increase the likelihood of a “Veronica Mars” movie down the road. That’s a Faustian deal if ever there was one; even if “When in Rome” becomes a hit, it may have no effect on the likelihood of a “Veronica Mars” movie, but it will sure as hell increase the likelihood of another movie like “When in Rome.” That, kids, is the kind of blood you can never wash off.