Vote for Jose.
Starring Kristen Bell, Josh Duhamel, Will Arnett, Jon Heder, Dax Shepard, Danny DeVito, and Anjelica Huston. Directed by Mark Steven Johnson.
Hey Kids! You wanna make your own romantic comedy? Follow along!
First off: you need a strong female character whose life is hectic, but organized. She must so in love with her career that she doesn’t have time to find love. Take Beth (Bell). She’s the youngest art curator at a museum. She hasn’t found a guy that she loves more than her career.
Okay, now we need a reason for this strong, independent female character to fall in love, so we’ll inject “societal pressure.” Beth’s ex-boyfriend Brady Sacks (Lee Pace) walks up to her and tells her that he has found the perfect match and he’s getting married! Also, she receives a phone call from her younger sister who tells Beth that she is getting married in Italy! Double-whammy!
Let’s enter the Suitor that Even the Audience Knows She’ll Fall in Love with: Nick (Josh Duhamel). Nick is socially awkward, charming, and a sports journalist to boot. He has a geek friend/editor and lives in the “bachelor pad.”
The two need to meet. In this case, one is a bridesmaid and the other a groomsman. Now we have the problem of filling an additional 80 minutes because while we know that Girl A has to get together with Guy B, they can’t be together until the end of the film (in network TV this can take YEARS). This problem is often best fixed using magic or some ancient legend/curse/etc. How about having the female character get drunk and go in the middle of the town square and pick out a few coins. No harm, no foul. Right?
The female character must return to her hectic life, completely oblivious to the coming consequences of what she did. In this case each coin is magically connected to a guy who tossed it into the fountain looking for love on a whim. There’s the street magician Lance (Heder). And Italian artist Antonio (Arnett). And narcissistic model Gale (Shepard). And finally a sausage distributor (DeVito). Each of these characters must be two-dimensional at most (so as not to “show up” the Suitor).
Now, you have to add chaos to the mix and fill in that 80-minute gap to keep Guy and Girl from being together until the very end. For this movie we’ll have each of the other “quirky” suitors show who they are and how magically infatuated with the Girl they are. The Magician tries pulling a “Houdini” in Beth’s apartment. The Model shows up at a restaurant Beth is eating at and presents his modeling portfolio to her as well as taking his shirt off in front of the entire restaurant. The Artist paints an 80-foot tall mural of her naked. The Sausage Distributor shows up at her work and asks for a personal tour.
Each of these characters must find a way to further keep Guy from being with Girl. This includes excessive deliveries of flowers to her as well as breaking up a date. But this isn’t enough. You must instill a seed of doubt in the Girl that she has found True Love. Beth finds out that the reason she has been followed by the others professing their love is because she plucked their coins out of the fountain. Is it possible that one of the coins belonged to Nick?
We’re not done just yet; there’s the “running” scene. This scene is pivotal because the Girl needs to know that the Guy will go to the ends of the Earth for her, and the Guy has to physically run to show that he’s willing to go the distance for her (literal and symbolic) and to show that he’s athletic. This MUST occur with some hint of danger (guy doesn’t make flight/performance/gala event/etc.) Nick must outrun inclemently bad weather (read: lightning strikes) to make it to the museum unveiling.
Guy makes it there and Girl confesses that she loves him and vice versa. Everyone is happy, all has reverted to normal. Almost. There is still that shred of doubt that true love is not completely true. Beth runs out on her wedding to Nick but finds that yes, true love has prevailed in the end (like you couldn’t see this happening?)
Some motion pictures are films. Some are movies. And others are video, which is where “When in Rome” will probably end up.
I thought it was enjoyable but in the realm of film, it’s like junk food: enjoy it now and forget that you ate it later. It’s not a bad movie per se and there were a few laughs but for the most part there are better romantic comedies (my date suggested “Never Been Kissed” as being WAY better than this). “When in Rome” is lighthearted fodder and you could probably do worse. My favorite scene was when Nick and Beth went out on a date to a restaurant where they were served in complete darkness.
Also of interest is the “Napoleon Dynamite” connection. Efren Ramirez, who played Pedro in “Napoleon Dynamite,” plays Lance’s assistant Jose who videotapes his tricks. Also the final bit of music, “The Promise,” was featured first in “Napoleon Dynamite.”
My grade: C+