Film Review: When in Rome

Run-of-the-mill diversion gets a boost from its deep supporting cast and quick pace.

Kristen Bell proclaims “I'm in a relationship with my job" within the first five minutes of When in Rome. Oh, brother—another one of those career-girl-learns-what's-really-important-when-she-finally-falls-in-love movies? Fortunately, instead of being rapped on the head with this predictable plotting, the movie ends up being saved by one of its faults. When in Rome never delves deep into anything, but whisks us through the conventions of romantic comedies so quickly there’s barely time to groan.

Bell plays a career gal spurned by love. At her sister’s wedding in Rome, she takes five coins from a “love” fountain, a move that prompts a stalkerish devotion in each of the five men who threw one of the coins. There’s a sausage king (Danny DeVito), a model (Dax Shepard), a street artist (Will Arnett) and a magician (Jon Heder), all ready to entertain us with their occupational quirkiness. Gifts of sausage, elaborate graffiti paintings, model-commissioned bus ads and a Houdini-style break-in ensue. The stable of unhinged lovers fuels the kind of laughs not allowed for the leading man and lady. Poor Bell and Josh Duhamel (the best man at the wedding whose poker chip went from the fountain to Bell’s purse) aren’t allowed to go to comic extremes, save for endearing bouts of klutziness. It’s even worse when the romantic duo try to go to the other extreme. In a rare slow moment, Bell makes a teary confession on a date with Duhamel, with a sappy predictability that deserves the resulting grimace. 

While most romantic comedies impose elaborate makeup and hair on their female leads, Bell has a conventionally stylish look that seems motivated more out of budgetary concerns than considerations of character. Besides a close-up of the red soles of Bell's Christian Louboutin heels (prompting oohs of recognition from the audience), the movie pays little attention to costuming and makeup, which would have been a welcome distraction from its faults. Duhamel, however, is occasionally lit with a halo of light reminiscent of the 1930s soft focus reserved for female stars, a fun reversal of conventions.

With its bevy of supporting males, When in Rome is able to keep up the pace and widen the opportunities for comedy, but the one-dimensional characters of Bell and Duhamel weaken the already predictable story. This silly and brisk romantic comedy won’t charm audiences, but for core rom-com fans, it may provide an hour and a half of pacification.