Beth (Kristen Bell) is a hard-working young woman who consequently has become the youngest curator at her firm. All that is well and good, but she has found herself unlucky in love. Her former boyfriend dumped her because she was too devoted to her work – something she explains away, saying when she meets someone she likes more than her work… then she’ll just know she’s found Mr. Right. Her boss, Celeste (Anjelica Huston) is expecting perfection from Beth on their next event, an event that is supposed to feature an as-yet-unseen painting by a famed artist. When sister, Joan (Alexis Dziena) announces her engagement to an Italian guy – whom she met a mere two weeks ago but claims he’s “the one,” Beth is forced to head to Rome for 48 hours to see her baby sister married. The best man, Nick (Josh Duhamel) seems to be of the same mindset as Beth, and after a piece of advice from dad, she decides to be open to the possibility of love, but it quickly backfires on her. Spontaneously, she grabs four coins from the Fountain of Love in defiance of the goddess overlooking the fountain, and returns home to her quiet life. Unbelieving of some ancient myth, Beth is taken aback, when she is suddenly overwhelmed with not one… not two… but five gentlemen pursuing her!
Aspiring painter Antonio (Will Arnett) is so in love with Beth, he will paint her everywhere until she sees his love through art; Magician Lance (Jon Heder) takes a more magical approach as he attempts to woe her with his book of tricks; model Gale (Dax Sheppard) has fallen for Beth so hard, he doesn’t know who is more beautiful: himself or her. The “sausage king” Al Russo (Danny DeVito) thinks he can win Beth’s hand by showering her in gifts… and then there is Nick. I cannot really find too much to complain about in regards to this movie. It’s sweet… and romantic… and funny… and romantic… and, well, you get the idea. It takes a few liberties from the usual way of romantic-comedies, which can either be a total flop or make it work. In this case, it really wasn’t one or the other, but somewhere in-between.
For the most part, When in Rome is endearing. And I like that about it. It has a kind of innocence all too often absent from this genre. Some of the responses can be really sappy, but that is really a part of its appeal. It is meant to be foolish, which it is – sometimes in abundance. The entire premise opens the door to some mild forms of magic, because of the “spell” the guys are said to be under. (It’s an idea that can seem a little creepy at times.) The guys whose coins Beth removes from the fountain are all a little… odd, but yet, I can appreciate writers making them thus since, obviously there is only one guy we root for Beth to end up with. (All of the guys’ antics can be a little weird, even as we understand it’s all for laughs… which makes it all the more laughable and at the end, each one is semi-likable.) Bookending the film in Rome adds a great deal of spontaneous romance. Much of the movie was filmed on location, both in New York and Italy, which helps in the realistic and charming picture it wants to present. At the theater, I did come away liking the movie – it provided some laughs and the leading couple were adorable together. (Seriously, Josh and Kristen have some really good sparks, even provided this isn’t your top-notch romance; they were just too cute!) Still, I didn’t find myself in love with it, something that really surprised me. But now, I’ve seen it again, I think I can say it has become one of my favorite feel-good flicks – if only because it is more wholesome than most. Sometimes, I crave something that is just silly without intelligent thought requiring a lot of serious consideration. When in Rome meets – and surpasses those requirements.
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(This is actually really clean for a PG13-rating. One of the men likes to strip his shirt off to display his “beauty.” A painting of a nude Beth briefly appears on the side of a building. Nude sketches are evident when someone flips through a sketch book; the artist also claims he “saw” Beth – first her “neck, then her torso…” before Beth cuts him off. After their first date, Beth and Nick make it to his apartment where they progress to making out. Joan and her husband are seen kissing and flirting in the nude; they fall out of view eventually. There may be some other winking sexual references. A wedding finds a lot of people drunk, including Beth who takes an entire bottle outside and continues to drink. Other instances depict drinking.)