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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: When in Rome

June 13th, 2010

When in Rome - DVD or Blu-ray

When in Rome is a romantic comedy that opened in late January, which is not the best time of year to open this kind of film, nor is it the worst. January is a dumping ground for bad films, so any January release is going to have a stigma attached to it for that reason. However, it is close to Valentine's Day, so the romance aspect of the film could help it draw in moviegoers. The particular film opened in a respectable third place with a per theater average just over $5000, which again is respectable. But despite this, it collapsed during its sophomore stint and by the time Valentine's Day rolled around, it was no longer a real factor at the box office. Was this the result of direct competition? This is a possibility, since two high profile romances opened in the following two weeks. Or is this the result of deservedly bad word-of-mouth?

Kristen Bell stars as Beth Harper, a workaholic who's an art curator at the Guggenheim Museum. Her latest exhibit has gone on without a hitch, at least professionally. Her ex-boyfriend decided to attend to tell her that he's getting married. Her personal life is further shaken when her sister, Joan, tells her that she's getting married... in a couple days... in Rome... to a man she just met! Despite being in the middle of planning another exhibit, she flies off to Rome to be her sister's maid of honor. That doesn't exactly go as planned, but at least she meets Nick Beamon and there's a connection. Sadly, this is a romantic comedy, so there has to be a misunderstanding, which leaves Beth heartbroken. Before leaving Rome and heading back to New York City, she grabs a handful of coins from a "fountain of love," hoping their luck will rub off on her. However, by grabbing these coins, she invoked the magic of the fountain and caused the men who originally threw the coins into the fountain to fall madly in love with her.

Those men are...

  1. Lance: A Street Magician
  2. Antonio: An Artist
  3. Gale: A Male Model
  4. Al Russo: A Sausage Tycoon
  5. And...
  6. Nick?
Now these five men have traveled to New York to profess their love and try to win her heart, much to her dismay. Even with Nick, whom she has real feelings for, this is a bad situation, as she doesn't want him to love her just because of some fountain-based magic. Now she has to figure out how to reverse the spell and see if Nick's feelings are real.

To illustrate the quality of this movie, I would like to start at the beginning. The very beginning. (Warning: Spoilers ahoy, but not major plot points.) The movie starts at a big event that Beth had planned and when she talks to her three co-workers about how well it had gone off, one of them mentions that her ex is there. She says, "Not a funny joke." and starts bad-mouthing him before saying, "He's right behind me, isn't he?" Yes, they went with that joke. Furthermore, when she turns around, she has a huge piece of food in her teeth! We are less than 90 seconds into the movie (not counting the opening credits) and already we've had two incredibly old, incredibly lazy, and incredibly unfunny jokes. Another two minutes go by and the filmmakers have added in a misunderstanding about a marriage proposal, a record-scratch, and a broken high heal. None of that is original, and none of it was even pulled off effectively. And that set the tone for the rest of the movie, which is filled with unoriginal moments and inept execution.

Granted, romantic comedies as a genre tend to be rather predictable. However, usually at least the individual jokes are fresh. This is not the case here. Additionally, the four suitors that follow Beth back to New York are not real characters. They are not even caricatures. They are so one-dimensional that even a talented actor like Danny DeVito can do nothing to salvage the part. In some cases, it was like the actors didn't trust the script so they thought they had to take the material over the top to make it funny. And while they were right not to trust the script, a little more subtly would have been the better choice.

No originality, no subtly, no charm. There's nothing here to save the film.

I do not have the DVD to review, but a quick check shows that the extras include eight deleted scenes that run 8 minutes long, three minutes of outtakes, and two music videos.

The Blu-ray has these extras, plus an alternate beginning and ending, a 12-minute behind-the-scenes featurette, 3-minute extended scene, and a minute-long featurette asking some of the actors what the craziest thing they've ever done for love. In total, it's about 40 minutes worth of extras, but none of it has any replay value.

The video quality is good with plenty of color depth, good detail level, strong blacks, etc., but this isn't a particularly challenging movie in terms of visual presentation. Likewise, the audio is solid with clear dialogue and good use of surround speakers, but this is not a disc you would want to use to show off your home theater system. At 32% more than the DVD, it's not a bad deal if you truly want to buy the movie. I wouldn't recommend it.

The Verdict

When in Rome's problems start with a terrible script that doesn't contain an ounce of originality or humor. I really wanted to like this movie, as I'm a fan of Kristen Bell, as well as a number of the supporting cast, and I'm even a fan of romantic comedies in general. That said, this movie is completely avoidable. Don't even bother renting the DVD or Blu-ray.

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Filed under: Video Review, When in Rome