When in Rome Review

When in Rome’s credits are backed by a bunch of computer generated coins being dropped into a computer generated fountain. Why? Is is that difficult to film someone tossing coins these days that we find the need for visual effects? It’s certainly not a location issue either, as star Kristen Bell is seen prancing inside the same Fountain of Love in Rome multiple times.

The only logical reason is that the film is so creatively bankrupt visually and in terms of scripting, no one could have pulled those shots off otherwise. It’s a shame too. Kristen Bell, cute, perky, and as energetic as she is, continually gets sidelined with this miserable material. This type of romantic comedy farce is a waste of time for all involved, including the poor suckers who end up watching it.

This film begins realistically, but still seems to be from some alien planet. Kristen Bell, simply named Beth because no one gets a last name here, is tasked with breaking a vase at a wedding reception. When it doesn’t break, she continually tries, eventually grabbing a microphone stand and tries to smash it. Yeah, because that’s happened to all of us, right? Oh, but the love interest must also be awkward and quirky, right? He drops his phone after it rings ridiculously loud in the middle of the church, and scrambles to pick it up as if he never had any coordination whatsoever.

When in Rome comes from the “paint by numbers” school of Hollywood writing. Quirky friend of the female lead? Check. Pointless cameos? Check. Side characters who fall for each other? Check. Contrived scenarios? Check. The guy who must run across town to tell the girl he loves her? Check. The end wedding? Check. The completely pointless dance number over the credits in a desperate search for laughs? Check times one thousand.

The film’s attempt at romantic originality comes from Beth picking up some coins in the Fountain of Love, and suddenly five men are madly attracted to her, the good looking one (Josh Duhamel) being the one to truly love her of course. Can you imagine if John Heder fell for her? Eww, right?

This unleashes a bunch of completely stupid antics on the part of the otherwise talented Heder, Danny DeVito, Dax Shepard, and Will Arnett. A scene worthy of the Hollywood Hall of Shame puts Beth and Nick (Duhamel) on their first date inside a restaurant that uses no lights. Seriously, they are led by the waitress who uses night vision while the couple stumbles around risking all sorts of personal injury. You can’t make this stuff up. Cue the four other guys who are under the “magic spell” (ugh) to somehow find her, leading to a mad dash out of the dark room, where suddenly those same guys can no longer locate Beth. Yes, this sequence was actually filmed, and no, it does not offer any entertainment value, much like the entirety of this disaster.

Movie ★☆☆☆☆ 

Touchstone/Disney delivers a clean and clear AVC for When in Rome. Director Mark Steven Johnson, as far away from Ghost Rider as possible, chooses a soft lighting approach for the film. There is regular blooming from any light source or bright object, readily apparent during the opening wedding at 10:40. Few scenes are free of this slight, inoffensive lighting haze. When it is not present, fine detail is generally exceptional.

The first increase occurs in Nick’s apartment during the poker game, about 28-minutes in. Pores and other facial textures become readily evident and striking. Black levels are excellent, providing a kick in the depth, and the naturalistic color aids in the HD eye candy. Flesh tones carry a slight warm tint, although hardly the garish orange most romantic comedies go for. A fine layer of grain is consistent in that you rarely even see it. There are two shots, both of Kristen Bell oddly, where the grain appears to swallow the detail from the frame. At 49:42 before the first date, her face is awash in slightly noisy grain, and the same thing happens at 1:03:00.

An encode concern pops up early at the meeting. Ringing around the high contrast edges at 7:32 and some aliasing around Anjelica Huston’s shoulders is a bit bothersome. Thankfully, this is the only noted occurrence. The sequence inside the restaurant utilizing night vision carries a plethora of problems, all likely on the source. Aliasing and a distinctly digital look is evident for the entirety of the scene, and noise is rather unbearable as Beth makes her escape.

The bitrate is healthy, so this is no issue with the encode making it worse. The sequence is simply misguided as a whole. The disc handles a number of complex shots, including a montage of New York aerial photography at 59:40 that are quite impressive.

Video ★★★★☆ 

The pop song that kicks the film off is a nice indication of the clarity of the upcoming DTS-HD effort. The track bleeds nicely into the surrounds, and is aggressive on the low-end. The wedding reception, around 11:54, brings with it hefty rear channel work, certainly providing a bit of ambiance.

It is a while before this mix has a chance to show off again. Even the streets of New York are static and bland in terms of the sound design. A bit of stereo tracking as vehicles pass is all this one can muster.

During Nick’s inevitable run across the city, lightning begins bombard the city, every bolt accompanied by a heavy, thick shot of bass. The LFE channel gets a small workout here, certainly enough to satisfy. Dialogue offers the typical layer of modern fidelity, and is well balanced with the minimal action.

Audio ★★★★☆ 

An alternate opening and ending (7:17 total) is joined by some extended scenes from the suitors (2:39) that should have just been combined into the separate deleted scenes section (seven minutes). Crazy Casanova’s is the standard studio making-of, followed by a short gag reel. Music videos and a small Easter Egg when you click the coin in the extras is all that remains.

Extras ★★☆☆☆