When in Rome is one of the dumbest romantic comedies of all time. It never once tries to stimulate the mind or hide its obnoxious disregard for the viewer’s intelligence. The story may have sounded interesting on paper, but the translation to the big screen falls flat. Every joke is stale, every twist expected, and the slapstick recycled and repetitive. I suspect even the target audience will question many of the absurdities and wonder why fantasy too often replaces sensibility.
It isn’t even hinted at until well beyond the establishment period of the film is over, but in Rome, Italy, at a particular Fountain of Love, if you steal the coins tossed into the water by various lovelorn passerby, they will magically fall madly in love with you. Beth (Kristen Bell) is a curator at New York’s Guggenheim Museum who reluctantly flies to Rome for her little sister’s wedding (to a man she’s only known for a couple of weeks). While there, she takes interest in the accident-prone Nick (Josh Duhamel) an ex-football player known as “The Hit” (for being struck by lightning on the field in the middle of a game). But just as they’re hitting things off, she spies him kissing another woman, prompting her to drunkenly steal five coins out of a nearby fountain, condemning the foolishness of love and her lack of success with the subject.
After she returns to New York, she’s suddenly being stalked by four very odd men: Antonio (Will Arnett) is an artist, Lance (Jon Heder) is a street magician, Gale (Dax Shepard) is a flamboyant model, and Al (Danny DeVito) is a sausage king (encased meat is his life). They’re all mysteriously in love with Beth, hopelessly following her around the city and unceasingly wooing her. As soon as Beth is made aware of her error in swiping the coins from the fountain, she desperately tries to right the wrong; she also struggles with Nick’s continuing advances – which she now believes to be beyond his control. And if that wasn’t enough, her boss (Anjelica Huston) is pressuring her about her responsibilities at the Circle of Gold gala, the most important party of the year.
The dialogue is terribly forced, the acting is exaggerated and the characters are excessively fake. The jokes are never fresh, Duhamel keeps running into poles and trees in a pathetic attempt at slapstick, and the supernatural elements are staggeringly contrived. And while the supporting cast consists of well-known comedians, they’re like cartoon characters, sporadically spouting insanities. With too many magical forces at work, people with entirely too much energy, and a screenplay with absolutely no idea how to make use of a diverse cast and a ridiculous plot, When in Rome doesn’t even work as a simple romantic comedy. It’s just plain silly.
– The Massie Twins (GoneWithTheTwins.com)