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When in Rome DVD Review

When in Rome (2010) movie poster When in Rome

Theatrical Release: January 29, 2010 / Running Time: 91 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Mark Steven Johnson / Writers: David Diamond, David Weissman / Songs List

Cast: Kristen Bell (Elizabeth Ann Martin), Josh Duhamel (Nicholas Beamon), Will Arnett (Anthony/Antonio Giuseppe Donatello), Alexis Dziena (Joan Martin), Jon Heder (Lance), Dax Shepard (Gale), Danny DeVito (Al Russo), Anjelica Huston (Celeste), Kate Micucci (Stacy), Peggy Lipton (Priscilla), Bobby Moynihan (Puck), Keir O'Donnell (Father Dino), Judith Malina (Umberto's Grandma), Kristen Schaal (Ilona), Luca Calvani (Umberto), Lee Pace (Brady Sacks), Erick Zuckerman (Hansom Cab Driver), Geoffrey Cantor (Dr. Moscowitz), Don Johnson (Beth's Dad - uncredited), Efren Ramirez (Juan - uncredited)

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Under Disney's new strategy, movies are either big franchise-friendly tentpoles or tiny low-risk films that could pay off dearly. Like most of Touchstone Pictures' scant recent output, When in Rome fits the latter bill. Not to be confused with the Olsen Twins' identically-titled 2002 direct-to-video movie, this 2010 theatrical release is a typical modestly-budgeted romantic comedy. It is the first of two Touchstone movies this year to star Kristen Bell, the "Veronica Mars" heroine and "Gossip Girl" narrator who has mostly held supporting lead parts in big screen comedies (including Couples Retreat and the title role of Forgetting Sarah Marshall).

Here, Bell plays workaholic New York art curator Beth Martin. The hasty wedding plans of her younger sister Joan (Alexis Dziena) require Beth to spend 48 hours in Italy's capital. The crowning act in a period marked by public embarrassment comes when a slightly drunk Beth steps into the city's fabled (fictional) Fontana d'Amore ("Fountain of Love") and pulls out a handful of coins that have been wishfully dropped.

A poker chip is the last of five wishing items a drunk, disenchanted Beth Martin (Kristen Bell) pulls out of Rome's Fontana d'Amore. Comic consequences, here we come!

According to legend, this is a dangerously unwise thing to do. When she returns to Manhattan, Beth finds herself pursued by the five men presumed to have dropped the retrieved coins. They include a tortured Italian artist (Will Arnett), an emo subpar street magician (Jon Heder), a narcissistic model (Dax Shepard), and a short, older "Sausage King" (Danny DeVito).
We easily recognize that the fifth suitor has a much better shot than the others, because Nick Beamon (Josh Duhamel) is less of a weirdo, introduced first, and present on the film's poster and cover art.

By taking their coins (or in one case, a poker chip), Beth has cast a spell on the five diverse men. Each has hopelessly fallen in love with her and is somehow able to find and "comically" stalk her.

Like an unfortunate majority of its genre, When in Rome is stupid, shallow, formulaic, and predictable. The concrete touch of magic that drives the plot is barely given thought or attention. The movie follows a straightforward path: successful pretty girl must fend off four persistent creeps while holding mixed feelings for the good-looking one still haunted by getting struck by lightning mid-tackle during his college football days.

Beth (Kristen Bell) and Nick (Josh Duhamel) first meet in Rome, where she is maid of honor and he is the best man poorly translating her speech for the largely Italian audience. What wacky fun! Five grown adults (counting tiny Danny DeVito and Kristen Bell) squeeze into Antonio's (Will Arnett) tiny yellow "clown car" for a wild ride that ends in a Guggenheim Museum elevator via one of the film's weak visual effects.

The movie looks nice, but that is about all it has going for it. No one is funny and the one guy designed to be likable isn't. The filmmakers should have known better than to attempt physical comedy involving alcohol and clumsiness. What would make them think that they'd be the ones to pull off the kind of gags that haven't been funny since the days of Chaplin and Keaton? They keep going for broad laughs, with persistence that suggests someone snatched the coins they dropped into the Fountain of Comedy Filmmaking. Among the "they", I hold director Mark Steven Johnson more responsible than Old Dogs writers David Diamond and David Weissman. In Daredevil, Ghost Rider, and this, Grumpy Old Men scribe Johnson has now pulled off a 21st century hat trick that shows he can disappoint just as readily with romantic comedies as Marvel superhero films.

Things never get more clever than a night vision scene in a blacked-out restaurant with Kristen Schaal ("Flight of the Conchords") as an eavesdropping waitress. More often, we're saddled with bits like the action climax fitting five adults into a small Italian car.
Watching the many visual jokes fall flat doesn't pull us away from anything better; the success rate elsewhere is as low or lower. Does anyone really want to watch romcom leads make out at a Picasso exhibit? This is about as low as lowbrow cinema gets without being crude or barbaric.

Bell is cute and able, but interchangeable with any young blonde actress. Her flavorless character is sympathetic only by process of elimination. Across from her, Duhamel is a dud as the klutz with impaired peripheral vision. Their lack of chemistry makes it all too easy to write off the inevitable "serious" romantic part of the plot. Cast around them are young hopefuls (including Kate Micucci as Beth's best friend and apparent "SNL" player Bobby Moynihan as the now-requisite Seth Rogen-type) plus a host of recognizable actors (Anjelica Huston, Don Johnson) who wouldn't be here if they were younger or their careers were in better shape.

Random cameos are made by Shaquille O'Neal and pre-latest scandal Lawrence Taylor; apparently Nick is now a sports columnist. Perhaps more notable is a quick scene that reunites Napoleon Dynamite with Pedro, i.e. Jon Heder with Efren Ramirez. Your suspicions that Ramirez's brief, uncredited part is the product of a reshoot are confirmed by deleted scenes in which an Asian actor plays the stopwatch-wielding assistant now called Juan.

As run-of-the-mill romcoms often do, this one shows us the leading lady's work life, where Anjelica Huston plays Beth's demanding boss Celeste. Lacking the night vision the camera affords us, Nick (Josh Duhamel) and Beth (Kristen Bell) stumble through a blacked-out Bleecker Street restaurant.

When in Rome added to the list of films that failed to do much for post-cutback Touchstone Pictures. Only The Proposal (a film the poster and now DVD amusingly advertise this is "from the studio" of) can be deemed a big moneymaker among the division's recent output (although the profits of subsequent Nicholas Sparks/Miley Cyrus drama The Last Song have been several times greater than the costs). Luckily for parent company Disney, one recent tentpole (Alice in Wonderland) has already proved madly profitable and another (Toy Story 3) seems certain to follow suit. There's also that whole Marvel Comics thing.

After a theatrical run that made 2009's equivalent Confessions of a Shopaholic look nearly potent, When in Rome comes to DVD and Blu-ray on June 15th.

Buy When in Rome on DVD from Amazon.com DVD Details

2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English, French, Spanish)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish
Closed Captioned; Some Extras Captioned and Subtitled
Release Date: June 15, 2010
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $29.99
Black Keepcase
Also available on Blu-ray Disc

VIDEO and AUDIO

When in Rome boasts flawless picture quality in the DVD's sharp and clean 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation. The Dolby 5.1 soundtrack pleasantly disperses the steady stream of pop songs and also robustly delivers the thematically significant recurring thunderclaps. By default, a wedding scene's Italian dialogue is translated by player-generated yellow subtitles in English or, if selected, dub options French and Spanish.

Will Arnett's artist Antonio Giuseppe Donatello has his epiphany moment on the DVD main menu's fountain montage. Kerplunk! Polish-nailed Jon Heder struggles to pass a poker chip through his fingers in the bloopers reel. Gale (Dax Shepard) is so proud of his physique he volunteers to be an Abercrombie & Fitch shirtless store greeter in this deleted scene.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

DVD special feature slates don't get any more standard and predictable than this one.

"Kerplunk! Bloopers from Rome" (3:06) features actors blowing lines and missing marks along with some unused Dax Shepard gags.

Three deleted scenes (3:13) provide little of note: a different version of the blooper reel's Abercrombie & Fitch shirtless model joke, an effort to solve the film's crux in a Little Italy shop's Fontana model, and the aforementioned different actor playing Juan.

For many, Katy Perry getting wet in a short, skin-tight dress may make the "Starstrukk" music video the best thing on the "When in Rome" DVD. That apparently isn't Emma Stone playing the girlfriend of Friday Night Boys singer Andrew Goldstein. When he goes to the concession stand, she's badgered by the guys behind her in the "Stupid Love Letter" music video.

Last but not least come two music videos, which are more memorable than most tie-in videos and nicely presented in 16:9 and 5.1.
"Starstrukk" (3:40) by 3OH!3 featuring Katy Perry plays upon the movie's fountain coin plot in an original and creative way. "Stupid Love Letter" by the Friday Night Boys does something similar in a movie theater setting, which enables it to do a little bit of routine film clip incorporating.

If you want more than that, you'll have to invest in a Blu-ray player. Exclusive to When in Rome's high-def release are an "hilarious alternate opening and ending", "Extended Pain with the Suitors", and "Crazy Casanovas: Mischief from the Set." If that doesn't make a person want to get with the times and go Blu, I don't know what will.

The DVD loads with trailers for The Sorcerer's Apprentice, "Lost": The Final Season, and Blu-ray. Talk about knowing your audience! The simple list of the Sneak Peeks menu adds promos for Alice in Wonderland and the 2010 World Cup on ESPN.

The main menu drops coins and a poker chip into a fountain that displays a watery montage. Submenus stay in the same place with different score and no animation. The only booklet inside the oddly uncut Eco-Box keepcase promotes Blu-ray.

The four love-struck weirdo suitors (Jon Heder, Dax Shepard, Will Arnett, and Danny DeVito) won't take no for an answer.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

When in Rome is easier to take than films as bad that belong to other genres. Still, this romantic comedy is a fairly joyless assault on our intelligence. After seeing the trailer for You Again, it seems obvious that both Kristen Bell and Touchstone would be wise to lay off this type of movie for a while, before both become identified as cut-rate makers of fluffy tripe Kate Hudson would reject.

The DVD's feature presentation is impeccable, which only heightens the movie's remarkable flaws. This lightweight package has bargain bin written all over it and there is no reason for you to see this before it gets there.

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Related Reviews:
New: Dear John StarStruck (Extended Edition DVD + CD) Alice in Wonderland (2010) Nine The Cry of the Owl
The Proposal Confessions of a Shopaholic Shadows in the Sun Did You Hear About the Morgans?
Maneater When Harry Met Sally Ghosts of Girlfriends Past The Comebacks Casanova The Lizzie McGuire Movie
Written by David Diamond and David Weissman: Old Dogs Minutemen | Directed by Mark Steven Johnson: Ghost Rider
Featuring The Voice of Kristen Bell: The Cat Returns | Jon Heder & Will Arnett: Blades of Glory | Jon Heder: Mama's Boy
Kate Micucci: Scrubs: The Complete Eighth Season | Keir O'Donnell: Paul Blart: Mall Cop | Danny DeVito: Deck the Halls
Anjelica Huston: The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou Martian Child The Darjeeling Limited Tinker Bell

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Download from iTunes (Deluxe Edition with 4 bonus tracks)

When in Rome Songs List (in order of use): Jason Mraz - "Kicking with You", 3OH!3 featuring Katy Perry - "Starstrukk (featuring Katy Perry)", Laura Izibor - "Shine", Patrice Irving and Richard Wagner - "Rockin' Bride", Paolo Nutini - "Pencil Full of Lead", Johann Pachelbel arranged by Jim Long - "Canon and Gigue in D Major: Gigue", Jani Lane - "Cherry Pie", "Tarantella", Craig Stull - "Donna Molto Bella", Mafia Bianca LLC - "I Am Changing", Tina Parol - "Hold Onto Your Heart", "La Vita Conte", Matt Hires - "Honey, Let Me Sing You a Song (Demo Version)", Katy Perry - "If You Can Afford Me", Jason Damato - "Floating Down a River", Adele - "Make You Feel My Love", Matchbox Twenty - "How Far We've Come", Friday Night Boys - "Stupid Love Letter", Franz Schubert arranged by Jim Long - "Ave Maria (feat. Violin)", Sofi Bonde - "Heart Bling", NEEDTOBREATHE - "Something Beautiful"

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Reviewed June 4, 2010.



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