When in Rome

Former Detroiters Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard can’t save such hackneyed hooey

Hot on the heels of Amy Adam's soggy Irish travelogue (Leap Year) comes yet another pre-programmed rom-com with young photogenic actors struggling to overcome hack direction, shoddy writing and a cheesy fantasy premise right out of a '60s episode of Love American Style

The pride of Huntington Woods, Kristen Bell, stars as Beth, one of those uppity movie New York gals so focused on their career that they're doomed to be klutzy social losers unable to keep a man for long. After getting dumped, Beth very reluctantly takes a few days off her gallery gig at the Guggenheim to jet to magical Rome for her kid sister's wedding, though she thinks it's a huge mistake. Turns out best man Nick is pretty dreamy (Josh Duhamel), if a little cocky, and a sitcom-styled misunderstanding finds her plucking coins from an enchanted love fountain causing four random strangers to fall hopelessly in love with her. (Yes, this movie was made in this decade.) 

The love-struck saps are played by normally funny guys — Will Arnett, Jon Heder, Danny DeVito and Dax Shepard — who appear to be rushing to ruin their comedy reputations. At least Shepard (Bell's real-life boyfriend and a fellow Detroiter) is well-cast; he excels at playing dopes, and his clueless male model character is worth some giggles. Though oddball cutie Kristen Schaal (Flight of the Conchords) cameos, just about everything else flops hard. Bell and Duhamel show flashes of chemistry, but they're rarely given more than about 90 seconds to develop it before somebody inexplicably flips ass over a tea kettle or suffers head trauma or stumbles face-first into a lamppost.

Corey Hall writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].