When in Rome" is silly and sweet.
Beth (Kristen Bell), in Rome for the wedding of her younger sister (Alexis Dziena), scoops five coins from the fountain of love pool. The flip side of the myth is that when one takes coins from the fountain, a spell is cast on those who tossed them. They fall in love with you.
Back in New York City, where Beth is a curator at the Guggenheim Museum working for a stern director (Anjelica Huston), five suitors give chase, including a magician (Jon Heder), bodybuilder (Dax Shepard), painter (Will Arnett), sausage factory owner (Danny DeVito) and Nick (Josh Duhamel), a former Syracuse University football player who is a New York Daily News sports reporter and was best man at Beth's sister's wedding. Nick is the only eligible receiver.
Many romantic comedies have achieved box office success with R rated teen-age raunch, thirtysomething canoodling or baby boomer divorce dilemmas. That's often because there are few big-screen actors who can hold their own in comedy and there is a dearth of funny screenplays and clever dialogue.
While "When in Rome" has likeable leads in Bell and Duhamel, and there is a funny premise here, the resulting script doesn't deliver.
Director Mark Steven Johnson, who directed "Daredevil" and "Ghost Rider" and wrote the screenplay for "Grumpy Old Men," tries his best to elevate the screenplay by David Diamond and David Weissman, who co-scripted "Old Dogs."
Story and character development strains credibility. The men pursuing Beth couldn't be more bizarre. The presumed difficulty of a young woman with Beth's brains and beauty to not find "the one" is a stretch, even though she admits her main relationship is with her job.
There are a few good laugh lines. Others are philosophical. For example, "We wait all our lives for some perfect guy to sweep us off our feet. Guess what? He's not coming."
Though Duhamel is game, his slapstick moments don't really work.
A scene in a Greenwich Village restaurant where customers dine in darkness is filmed in night-vision goggle green. This must have sounded good on paper. On screen, yes, the screen actually goes black. Dumb idea.
A sequence with Beth and four of her suitors squeezed into a tiny yellow import car is rather funny.
If you are a fan of Kristen Bell ("Couple's Retreat" and TV's "Gossip Girl," "Heroes," "Veronica Mars") or Josh Duhamel "Transformers," TV's "Las Vegas"), you will enjoy their – pun intended – engaging performances. Bell has a compelling fresh-faced brightness. She does this exasperated raspberries thing with her lips that is endearing. Duhamel has the natural handsome decency of a leading man. He seethes with sincerity.
The supporting players are so unusual-looking they appear to be computer-generated. There's Stacy (Kate Micucci, TV's "Scrubs," a Nazareth Area High School graduate who could win a Liza Minnelli look alike contest); the sausage king (DeVito, who could win an R2D2 look alike contest); Beth's dad (Don Johnson, who would win a Don Johnson look alike contest); and Antonio the painter (Arnett, who would not win a "Jersey Shore" cast member look alike contest).
"When in Rome" is a date movie. First, though, you need a date. You may need to visit that fountain of love.
"When In Rome": MPAA Rated PG -13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13) for some suggestive content; Genre: Comedy, Romance; 1 hour, 31 minutes; Distributed by Touchstone Pictures.
Credit Readers Anonymous: There are cameos by sports stars Lawrence Taylor and Shaquille O'Neal. The "When in Rome" cast dances during the closing credits, a la "Mama Mia!" Adele sings Bob Dylan's "To Make You Feel My Love" on the soundtrack. It's noted that the "Pain" exhibition at the Guggenheim depicted in the movie is fictional.
Box Office, Jan. 29: "Avatar" made it a lucky seven weeks in a row at No. 1 with a solid $30 million and $594.4 million, seven weeks. "Avatar," already the international box office champ, is on track to become the highest-grossing domestic movie ever, surpassing director James Cameron's other mega-hit, "Titanic."
"Edge of Darkness," starring Mel Gibson," opened at No. 2 with $17.1 million. "When in Rome" opened at No. 3, with $12 million.
4. "Tooth Fairy," $10 million, $26.1 million, two weeks; 5. "The Book of Eli," $8.7 million, $74.3 million, three weeks; 6. "Legion," $6.8 million, $28.6 million, two weeks; 7. "The Lovely Bones," $4.7 million, $38 million, eight weeks; 8. "Sherlock Holmes," $4.5 million, $197.5 million, six weeks; 9. "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel," $4 million, $209 million, six weeks; 10. "It's Complicated," $3.7 million, $104 million, six weeks
Unreel, Feb. 5: "Dear John" stars Allentown's Amanda Seyfried who falls in love with a soldier (Channing Tatum) home on leave. After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, he re-ups. Lasse Hallstrom directs, based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks, author of "The Notebook." "From Paris with Love" stars John Travolta as an American spy attempting to stop a terrorist attack in Paris.
Two Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes