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When in Rome: Movie Review

Chris Carpenter


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At first glance, “When in Rome” has all the classic elements to be a winning romantic comedy.  It has attractive leading characters that you want to like.  There is conflict that drives the couple apart but ultimately love never fails and they wind up back together in the end.  There is light hearted comic relief from the supporting cast (in this case, a team of romantic suitors).  But in this case, the winning formula falls flat.

Beth (Kristen Bell) is an ambitious curator working at the Guggenheim Museum in New York.  All about business, she has little time for any sort of social life, including romance.  Besides, she hasn’t had much success with men in the past.  On the eve of an extremely important art exhibit opening, Beth is summoned to Rome to be the maid of honor in her younger sister’s (Alexis Dziena) last-minute wedding.  Disillusioned with love, she wanders outside the church and stumbles upon a magic fountain.  Beth drunkenly gathers several magic coins from its depths, each belonging to a love-sick tourist, who instantly falls in love with her without knowing why.  Her court of suitors include Danny DeVito (a sausage company CEO), Dax Shepherd (a male model wannabe), Jon Heder (a street magician), and Will Arnett (a painter).  The final suitor, a sports reporter named Nick (Josh Duhamel), pursues Beth not because of any sort of magic spell, but because he truly loves her.  She wonders if he is the real thing or being controlled by a magic coin like the others.    

While Bell seems to have a great deal of potential as a romantic comedy mainstay, she is plagued by a pedestrian script.  She looks the part, tries her hardest to act the part, but in the end is limited by inferior writing.  The same can be said for Duhamel, an emerging actor who delivers his dialogue with flair, but gets lost in the story’s blandness.  Together, the lack of chemistry between them leaves the viewer not caring if they ever get together.

The movie is filled with several slapstick scenes that will make you laugh, the most notable being when Beth and Nick go on a date to a blackout restaurant, a dining establishment where people cannot see their food or each other.  Viewers are treated to several awkwardly wacky moments through night-vision goggles.
While there is no overly caustic language or overtly sexual scenes, save for a lewd mural on the side of the building, people of faith will certainly take issue with the movie’s main sub-plot – magic, casting spells, and the idea that a fountain can control someone’s destiny.  Also, there is one scene of public intoxication that will make many Christians take pause.

There are some positive elements scattered here and there – Beth describing that the reason for the Guggenheim’s glass roof is so that God can see all the beautiful paintings from heaven and DeVito's character making an astute observation that love is about putting others before yourself.

By the movie’s end, viewers are left with a question they must answer.  Can wishing well coins cast a spell of love to last a lifetime?  I think not.  When in Rome is a film so light in substance that it essentially floats away and will soon be forgotten.

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About The Author


Chris Carpenter is the program director for, the official website of the Christian Broadcasting Network. He also serves as executive producer for myCBN Weekend, an Internet exclusive webcast show seen on In addition to his regular duties, Chris writes extensively for the website. Over the years, he has interviewed many notable entertainers, athletes, and politicians including Oscar winners Matthew McConaughy and Reese Witherspoon, evangelist Franklin Graham, author Max Lucado, Super Bowl winning coach Tony Dungy and former presidential hopefuls Sen. Rick Santorum and Gov. Mike