The Austin Chronicle

When in Rome

Rated PG-13, 91 min. Directed by Mark Steven Johnson. Starring Kristen Bell, Josh Duhamel, Anjelica Huston, Danny de Vito, Will Arnett, Jon Heder, Dax Shepard.

REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., Feb. 5, 2010

How do movies this bad still get made? So many people are involved in the shepherding of a film from script to screen, you’d think at least one could be counted on for quality assurance. Maybe that person called in sick or took vacation time. I hear Rome is nice. I bet the stars of this movie were enticed by the idea of a working vacation in Rome. Press materials tell me the film was in fact lensed in scenic Italia, but it could have fooled me: The location scouts managed to find the one cobblestone square in Rome that looks like it was manufactured on a Burbank backlot. That square, by the way, is where sits an ancient, magical fountain. Heartsick, or maybe just drunk and bitter that her baby sister got married first, single gal Beth (Bell) dives into the fountain and pockets a handful of coins, setting in motion one of the dumber plots to come down the pike in a long while (see you at next year’s Razzies for sucky script honors, David Diamond and David Weissman!). Turns out that the men who threw those coins in the fountain are suddenly and rather violently smitten with Beth. The suitors are played by well-known comic actors – Arnett is a tortured artist, Shepard a preening male model, Napoleon Dynamite’s Heder a goth-y illusionist, and de Vito a sausage king – and to a one they are strenuously unfunny. Bell is utterly blah (then again, she’s working with talking points, not dialogue), while Duhamel, as another beau maybe under the fountain’s influence, lopes through the picture like a lost but very eager puppy. The credits roll to a castwide dance sequence that plays like bad dinner theatre. I wish: At least bad dinner theatre comes with dessert.

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