When in Rome (Blu-ray)
Directed by Mark Steven Johnson
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 91 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 French, Spanish
Subtitles: SDH, French, Spanish
MSRP: $ 39.99
Release Date: June 15, 2010
Review Date: June 7, 2010
Pulling off a farcical romantic fantasy is a tall order indeed, and the participants before and behind the camera of Mark Steven Johnson’s When in Rome don’t quite deliver the goods. There is certainly plenty of slapstick, much more than the movie can comfortably contain especially since the leading actors aren’t known for their vast experience in playing outrageous comedy like this. And then there’s the problem of chemistry between the two leading players. Despite gorgeous looks, there isn’t the least bit of spark between them, and that’s pretty deadly in a film where the only reason to continue watching is to see your leading man and leading woman, destined from moment one to be right for each other, end up in each other’s arms. When it happens in this film, we just don’t care. When in Rome is a professionally produced package, but it’s a synthetic mixture that simply doesn’t captivate.
Guggenheim art curator Beth (Kristen Bell) is constantly thwarted from finding true love. In Rome to attend her younger sister’s wedding, she drunkenly removes five coins from the Fountain of Love, a symbolic act which according to legend is supposed to make the five people who originally threw the coins into the fountain fall rapturously in love with her. The five seem to be sportswriter Nick (Josh Duhamel) whom she had genuinely warmed to at the wedding, lonely widower Al (Danny DeVito), wacky illusionist Lance (Jon Heder), egotistical muscle model Gale (Dax Shepard), and artist Antonio (Will Arnett). Besides fighting off the advances of four of the suitors in whom she has no interest and feeling guilty about Nick’s pursuit of her, Beth is also being constantly pressured by her boss (Anjelica Huston) to make sure the upcoming Circle of Gold Gala comes off without a hitch.
When a film has two stars as drop dead gorgeous as Kristen Bell and Josh Duhamel, it seems to have been the task of the filmmakers to find as many ways as possible to subject them to embarrassing, soul-crushing experiences for the run of the movie. The falling, tripping, stumbling, and general malaise of their existences for the film’s 91 minutes loses the funny fast and goes right into the painfully unfunny. Sure, it’s a farce, but it’s so over calculated to be humiliating for them than it loses the spark of hilarity and just seems relentlessly cruel. The four supporting beaux are all expert comedians, and each gets a moment or two (likely improvised by the actors themselves) that are genuinely funny, charming, or sweet. Otherwise, the David Diamond-David Weissman screenplay does no one any favors reducing almost everyone to one dimensional characters that quickly grow tiresome. Director Mark Steven Johnson does at least keep the tempo rolling, and the wacky shenanigans trip along quickly enough to not allow the audience to think through the script’s machinations (at least until after the movie is over).
Kristen Bell doesn’t overdo the cutsey mannerisms, so the farcical nature of the enterprise never weighs her down (though she’s often reduced to just blank-faced staring at all the nuttiness around her). Josh Duhamel is all a romantic comedy love interest should be, but he sometimes seems like he’s wandered into this movie from one that’s a little less crazy; he’s not always prepared to deal with the circus going on around him. Of the four other pesky suitors, Will Arnet has fun with accents, and Jon Heder scares up some laughs with his deadpan slight-of-hand. Speaking of deadpan, Anjelica Huston is unthinkably unlikable as the taciturn boss while Keir O'Donnell as Father Dino gets off a few priceless muttered throwaways during the wedding ceremony (though one gets the impression he’s trying too hard to achieve the same madcap mischief that Rowan Atkinson achieved in Four Weddings and a Funeral). Look fast and you’ll see Don Johnson and Peggy Lipton playing Kristen Bell’s divorced parents.
The film’s theatrical 2.35:1 aspect ratio is delivered in a colorful 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. The image is a bit too bright to score as a reference quality transfer though there are certainly plenty of things to like about the sharpness, detail, and color fidelity presented here. The image is pristine, and black levels are very well delivered, but flesh tones often take on an overly brownish look. The film has been divided into 20 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix is typically front centric as often happens with romantic comedies. Christopher Young’s music score does get a nice, full surround encode through the soundstage, and you’ll notice a few choice sound effects in the rears though with a slapstick comedy this noisy, more could have been done with the surround channels.
All of the bonus features are presented in 1080p.
Alternate opening and closing sequences are offered, neither of which is as effective as what made the final cut. They can be played separately or in one 7 ¼-minute grouping.
“Crazy Casanovas: Mischief from the Set” is the most substantial of the bonus features, 12 ½ minutes of the director, producers, and stars discussing the film and the characters they’re playing.
“Extended scenes: Pain with the Suitors” offers additional scenes with three of the screwy suitors, each of which can be watched separately or in one 2 ½-minute bunch.
There are eight deleted scenes apart from those mentioned above which can be watched in one 7 ¾-minute arrangement or separately.
The film’s gag reel runs 3 ¼ minutes.
There are two music videos which may be watched individually or together for 6 ¾ minutes: “Starstrukk” with Katy Perry and “Stupid Love Letter” by Friday Night Boys.
An obvious Easter egg placed at the bottom of the bonus feature listing is a brief set of interviews in which various cast members are asked what’s the craziest thing they ever did for love. It runs for 1 ¼ minutes.
There are 1080p trailers for The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Lost: The Final Season, and Alice in Wonderland.
3/5 (not an average)
Much about the frantic comedy of When in Rome is tiresome, but it could just as easily delight another viewer. The Blu-ray release looks and sounds quite good, and there are a few bonus features a fan of the movie might also enjoy watching.