Posts Tagged ‘When in Rome’


when-in-rome-kissy-faceThe good part of “When in Rome,” the new Kristen Bell film, is that it doesn’t follow the usual unlikely boy-meets-unlikely-girl romantic comedy set-up. The bad part is that just because it doesn’t follow the usual rom com rules doesn’t mean it isn’t predictable.

Bell is Beth, a work obsessed curator at the Guggenheim Museum in NYC. After her last boyfriend “ripped out her heart and fed it to the pigeons in Central Park” she lost faith in romance but when her sister impulsively decides to get married in Italy Beth reluctantly takes a couple of days off, where she ends up drunk in the “fountain of love” plucking coins from the water. Little does she realize that an old legend declares that when you take coins from the fountain, you take the heart of the person who tossed the coin in the fountain in the first place. Soon she is being unwillingly courted by four men—an artist, a street magician, a sausage salesman, a model and willingly courted by Nick (Josh Duhamel), an ex football star. The question is, “Is the love for real or just a magic spell?”

“When in Rome” is as frothy as it gets. It’s a romantic fantasy with no foot in reality. In fact, the only fantasy here is that anybody thought this was a strong enough idea to carry a whole movie. There are a few laughs sprinkled throughout and the audience I saw this with laughed intermittently, but the jokes—like an Italian priest mispronouncing “lawfully wedded wife” as “awfully wedded wife” not once, but twice!—are more amusing than actually funny.

The movie does earn some legit laughs—a tiny European car gag is silly fun—from the more comic savvy members of the cast like Will Arnett, Danny DeVito and Dax Shepard, (Jon “Napoleon Dynamite” Heder continues his string of more annoying than funny performances), but when the attention shifts away from them to the leads “When in Rome” flat lines.

Bell’s idea of physical comedy is to smile with spinach in her teeth and while she’s an agreeable screen presence she isn’t really suited for this kind of comedy. Ditto Don Johnson who plays her father. The years have been kind to Johnson, but he doesn’t have a natural gift for comedy. As for Anjelica Huston as Beth’s testy Guggenheim head curator… well let’s just say I choose to remember her glory days in films like “The Grifters” and “Prizzi’s Honor.”

Josh Duhamel fares slightly better. He’s the charming (but slightly goofy) single guy with the perfect bachelor pad—complete with a barber’s chair, a pinball machine and neon cocktail sign—who can deliver a joke well enough but appears to me to be a modern day Tab Hunter; more male model than an interesting actor.

“When In Rome” is further proof that romantic comedy needs a shot in the arm. A few weeks ago, on the release of “Leap Year,” I suggested that someone like Quentin Tarantino should come in and completely reboot the genre. Seeing “When in Rome” didn’t change my mind.

Rome stands out as one of film’s greatest sets In Focus by Richard Crouse FOR METRO CANADA January 29, 2010

110161708_dolce_319038cAccording to Italian director Federico Fellini, “Rome is the most wonderful movie set in the world.”  A quick IMDB check reveals thousands of movies shot in the ancient city—everything from forgettable fare like The Exorcism of Baby Doll to classics like The Bicycle Thief. The latest movie to use the Eternal City as a backdrop is When in Rome, a new Kristen Bell rom com opening this weekend.

The most famous Rome scenes in cinema are arguably Gregory Peck teasing Roman Holiday’s Audrey Hepburn by putting his hand in the Mouth of Truth, which purportedly bites off the hands of liars, and La Dolce Vita’s iconic image of Anita Ekberg standing in the Trevi Fountain but for my lira the famous last scene of Fellini’s Roma is the most spectacular.

The sight of a gang of motorcyclists driving through the city, past such landmarks as the Colosseum, the Capitoline Museum and the Forum, is breathtaking. Actress Claudia Ruspoli says it was an eye opener for Italians as well.

“Rome used to be a dark city; the monuments unlit,” she said. “When Fellini shot Roma that summer, the monuments were all lit and we saw them at night for the first time. Beautiful!”

A grittier vision of Rome appears in Roberto Rossellini’s Rome, Open City. Mixing documentary footage of German troops on Rome’s streets with a fictionalized story of Italian resisters on the lam from the Gestapo Rossellini created a new film genre—Italian neo-realism—and by moving the camera outside studio walls, using real locations, available light and nonprofessional actors, provides a real life glimpse of war ravaged Rome.

More polished than Rome, Open City is Vittorio De Sica’s Bicycle Thief. It’s still neorealist, but where Rossellini struggled to cobble together bits of film stock to complete his film, resulting in an uneven look, Bicycle Thief is beautifully photographed. The story of a poor man searching for the person who stole his bike plays like a walking tour of late 1940s Rome.

Since then hundreds of films have shot on the streets of Rome and while the city has been kind to the movies, the movies have also been kind to Rome. Patrizia Prestipino, head of Rome’s provincial department of tourism views any film set in Italy as “free advertising” and notes that the release of movies like Angels and Demons has created a new industry in the country—movie tourism.