If you can stomach tripe -- that is, movies that follow the classic romantic-comedy formula to a T without deviating at all -- then 'When in Rome' is for you. Conceivably, you could also enjoy it if you're a die-hard Josh Duhamel or Kristen Bell fan, but even they seem flailing and lost in this jumbled mess.

Normally, when a viewer becomes disillusioned with the leads in a rom-com, they can turn with hope to the supporting cast. Despite the presence of stellar comedic actors like Dax Shepard and Jon Heder, there are virtually no laughs to be had. In fact, most of the characters just come off as annoying and unbelievable. One of Duhamel's 'beer buddies' tries so hard to be Zach Galifianakis you almost feel bad for the guy. But you don't feel bad for him in the end, you just feel bad for yourself for being stuck in the theatre.

If you can stomach tripe -- that is, movies that follow the classic romantic-comedy formula to a T without deviating at all -- then 'When in Rome' is for you. Conceivably, you could also enjoy it if you're a die-hard Josh Duhamel or Kristen Bell fan, but even they seem flailing and lost in this jumbled mess.

Normally, when a viewer becomes disillusioned with the leads in a rom-com, they can turn with hope to the supporting cast. Despite the presence of stellar comedic actors like Dax Shepard and Jon Heder, there are virtually no laughs to be had. In fact, most of the characters just come off as annoying and unbelievable. One of Duhamel's 'beer buddies' tries so hard to be Zach Galifianakis you almost feel bad for the guy. But you don't feel bad for him in the end, you just feel bad for yourself for being stuck in the theatre.

You can't fault Touchstone Pictures for wanting to try this again. The studio struck gold last year with surprise box-office smash 'The Proposal', a modest rom-com that managed to attract audiences and get laughs. Where Ryan Reynolds and Sandra Bullock succeeded with a believable chemistry, Bell and Duhamel stumble and fall clumsily - much like their characters onscreen. Bell plays workaholic Beth, who readily admits that she is more dedicated to her career than her search for love. We learn that her past relationships have suffered because she's always thinking about work. (Hey, if we had an art curation job at the Guggenheim Museum, we'd care a lot more about our work too!)

In what seems like two minutes, Beth is suddenly flying to Rome for her sister's impromptu wedding to an Italian stud, whom she met two weeks prior. Somehow they've managed to secure a swanky palace for the venue, and there are literally hundreds of guests milling about. Among them is Nick (Duhamel), who is the Italian groom's best man. Why is a New Yorker a random Italian guy's best man? Because Nick taught him football in college. Duh. This is one of many logical questions it's just best to ignore.

We're made to believe that sparks fly between Beth and Nick (awkwardly) as they stumble through the ceremony, but really the two actors have about as much chemistry as Cher paired with Verne Troyer. There ain't much. Beth manages to get drunk, and then makes an inadvisable decision involving a reputed 'fountain of love' conveniently located outside the palace. As a result, the once-unlovable workaholic becomes the object of affection for four unlikely suitors -- and Nick, of course. Canadian funnyman Will Arnett is wannabe artist Antonio (think dark-haired Fabio), Jon Heder is struggling magician Lance, Dax Shepard is narcissistic egomaniac Gale, and Danny DeVito plays a lovelorn sausage peddler.



Each suitor is irritating for their own specific reason, but the award for the saddest turn goes to DeVito. Watching him ogle and chase after Bell, hands outstretched and grasping, is both nauseating and depressing. No wonder the role/movie is nowhere to be found on his IMDB page. Heder, of 'Napoleon Dynamite' fame, is so annoying that every scene with him is like punishment.

Things progress predictably, with the inevitable miscommunication and lame dialogue ever-present in rom-coms. Along the way we get ridiculous situation after ridiculous situation, including one that takes place at a restaurant called Blackout, where Beth and Nick attempt to dine in complete darkness. What a great idea for a couple of klutzes! And then later in the film, a compact car somehow drives into the Guggenheim (at full speed) and up the elevator to the fifth floor without breaking anything. Yes, because that's entirely possible.

But, you say, surely there must be something redeeming about the film! Sadly, it's not the case. While Betty White successfuly injected some humour in 'The Proposal', in 'When in Rome' we get some pathetic moonlighting from Anjelica Huston as bitchy boss Celeste and Don Johnson as a very unconvincing father to Beth. He basically smirks and spouts cliches for about five minutes, and Huston plays a brassy hard-ass. Tough gigs.

All of this considered, the audience at the theatre seemed to have a great time. There was much laughter, and if I'm not mistaken, I heard a few sniffles towards the end. So if you're capable of ignoring the predictability, or if you just want to shut your brain off for a few hours, then you just may enjoy 'When in Rome'. But if you seek a clever, original experience, you'd be better off booking a trip to Rome or visiting the Guggenheim in person.

1 star out of 4.

CATEGORIES Reviews