When in Rome is the latest film to squander the charms of Kristen Bell.
Bell kicked major ass in Reefer Madness, Forgetting Sarah Marshall and, of course, TV's Veronica Mars. Since Marshall, she's shown up in the deplorable Fanboys, the embarrassing Couples Retreat, the stupid Astro Boy (in voice only) and now this crap—which has the dubious distinction of being the worst film of the year thus far.
Bell plays Beth, an events curator at the Guggenheim who is one year removed from her last relationship and in some serious need of lovin'. Her little sister, Joan (played by the ridiculously adorable Alexis Dziena), is going to marry her new boyfriend in Italy, and Beth's presence is required, regardless of her busy work schedule. So, off to Italy she goes, leaving her snooty boss, Celeste (Anjelica Huston, hamming it up and looking lost), sneering and bitching.
While in Rome, Beth makes nice with the best man, Nick (Josh Duhamel), but a misunderstanding leaves her drunk and wading through a fountain, where she snatches some coins. These coins represent the love hopes of five different men, and those five men will fall unconditionally in love with Beth because of some local-fountain-legend horseshit. Those men are a street magician (Jon Heder), a male model (Dax Shepard), a sausage king (Danny "Oh How the Mighty Have Fallen" DeVito) and a struggling artist (Will Arnett). The fifth man is somewhat of a mystery, although Beth assumes it is Nick.
Watching the usually hilarious Arnett wearing a dumb wig and sporting a cliché Italian accent is painful stuff. Arnett's presence in a film, no matter how bad that film is, usually means there are going to be at least a few laughs—but all his presence does here is make me hate the agent who handed him this script. I'd say the same goes for Heder and Shepard, but who really gives a rat's ass about those guys at this point? (DeVito has done decent films in his past, so he's forgiven.)
What does director Mark Steven Johnson want you to find funny in this film's 91 minutes? Beth shoots breath spray into Nick's face by accident, and that's probably the film's biggest joke; chances are you won't laugh all that hard. Other moments include Heder's Criss Angel-like magician pulling his bloody heart out of his chest for a card trick. I shit you not.
Bell and Duhamel deserve much better. I enjoyed Duhamel in the silly but entertaining Win a Date With Tad Hamilton!, and he lends this film occasional moments of grace. His character is some sort of former football star turned sportswriter, and there's only so much you can do with that. His most memorable sports moment would be the time when lightning struck him in the head. Yeah ... that's a real knee-slapper.
Johnson's past directorial works consist of Simon Birch, Daredevil and Ghost Rider. He also had a hand in writing Jack Frost, Big Bully and Grumpy Old Men. With the exception of Grumpy Old Men, this man is responsible for a concentrated amount of cinematic cat vomit. We're not talking a cat that has been feasting on tasty, somewhat expensive Iams; we're talking a barn cat that's been eating rats and pigeons.
It's sad watching Bell navigate these mundane waters. It's a testament to her star quality and charisma that she's likable throughout this garbage, but enough is enough. It's time for her to get a better movie project, or she should just go back to TV, where she seems to get better material.