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Kristen Bell in When in Rome.

Philippe Antonello

1 out of 4 stars


When in Rome

  • Directed by Mark Steven Johnson
  • Written by David Diamond and David Weissman
  • Starring Kristen Bell and Josh Duhamel
  • Classification: PG

While watching When in Rome, and suffering through 90 of the longer allegedly comic moments in my life, I began to think of, well, when I was in Rome. Since the memories were distinctly more pleasant than the unfolding movie, I pursued them. I remembered those sublimely dark Caravaggios, all his Madonnas with dirty fingernails, and how it seemed that, centuries before the camera made its appearance, that guy invented film noir. And that tiny poignant room adjacent to the Spanish Steps where a tubercular Keats breathed his last, although not before looking up at a plaster-cast flower on the ceiling above him and joking to his friend Severn: "Already the daisies are growing over me."

Then I began to think of those other movies set in Rome, and those other movie stars - like Marcello Mastroianni, or the Hepburns Kate and Audrey - who made the vita so dolce. But don't suspect that I was neglecting my critical duties. No, not for a second did my eyes stray from the screen. There, instead of Audrey, I saw Kristen Bell, and in lieu of Marcello, Josh Duhamel. Gee, isn't it reassuring to know that the talent pool is as deep as ever.

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I saw this too: Attending her sister's Roman wedding and getting a bit tipsy, Kristen wades through a fountain in a piazza. It must be a fictitious fountain, because the Venus at its centre is fully clothed, what with this being a Disney flick and, you know, Uncle Walt not being a Renaissance sort of man. Anyway, while wading, Kirsten stoops down to pick up not three but five coins in the fountain, thereby unleashing a myth undocumented in any of the classics: Seems the tossers of those coins are now fated to fall madly in love with her.

Which they do. Alas, since shooting in Rome is a costly business, they do so back in New York. There, Kristen is understandably vexed by the attentions of her new-found suitors. The first is an annoying street magician, the second an annoying painter, the next a really annoying male model. The fourth isn't annoying, but he is Danny DeVito. Happily, she does take a keen interest in the last, but that's only because he's Josh Duhamel.

Okay, the plot may be thin, but that leaves all the more room for shtick. Like Kristen getting food stuck in her teeth, or breaking a high heel. The lads fare no better. They're always crashing through coffee tables, or walking into telephone poles, or falling into open manholes. In that last event, damned if my mind didn't start to wander again. I began to think of Chaplin, and his pearl of comic wisdom. Said Charlie: A guy falling into a manhole isn't funny; however, a guy spotting a banana peel, carefully stepping over it and then falling into a manhole, that's funny. Apparently, Chaplin still has lessons to teach but, here at least, ain't nobody listening.

Of course, far from me to dissuade you from the potential delights of these slap-happy frames. Nope, I can only speak for myself, and so say this. In the case of When in Rome, oh to do what the Romans used to do: Toss the bloody thing to the lions.

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