New Jersey’s Great Pop Culture Moments Vol.42: When In Rome


BETH: “Is this your Euro?”
ANTONIO: “that’s weird…”
BETH: “Antonio?”
ANTONIO: “It’s Anthony actually.”
BETH: “From Nunzio?”
ANTONIO: “No. Newark…New Jersey”
BETH: “Are you really a tortured artist?”
ANTONIO: “Tortured. Been in retail shoe sales for the last 9 years. As far as being an artist, I don’t know I guess I figured going to Italy would make me one.”
Thankfully, I’ve never been in the situation but watching When In Rome gave me the same feeling that a passenger on a plane might experience seconds before they realize they are about to crash. Imagine how serene the land below looks when gazing out the window thousands of feet in the air, and then your thoughts suddenly turn sour as the plane begins to take a nose dive. At least your captain makes you aware that you all need to put on your masks and take note of the exits. In contrast, a DVD does not supply that type of warning, so heed the one I’m about to bestow on you: When In Rome is a pretty stupid movie.

The crazy thing about When In Rome is that I’ve actually seen movies with lower budgets and Z-list actors that are actually better than this. As a fan of Kristen Bell I had high hopes for her big starring role. Her comedic sharpness and sly sarcasm has lent itself superbly to Veronica Mars, and even her recent role on Party Down, which you should watch if you haven’t yet. As the main character of the film she maintains those qualities, but in a very subtle way in comparison to her other roles. Her curator, Beth, is more likable than Sarah Marshall, but Bell flourishes more as the latter. She’s at her best when playing saucy, self absorbed characters full of idiosyncrasies.

The cliched, silly plot involves a fountain of love from which Beth takes back coins just like Mouth did in The Goonies. Meanwhile, the owners who originally threw those coins into the fountain all wind up falling in love with Beth, although she already has eyes for Nick, played by Josh Duhamel. The role of Nick is not too much different than the numbskull Duhamel probably is in real life. Nick is a former football player who got struck by lightning during a game and soon meets Beth at her sisters wedding in Rome.

Much like that plane that I mentioned earlier, you can probably imagine how the movie plummets from there. There’s a Napolean Dynamite connection, a kick ass performance by SNL’s Bobby Moynihan, and cameos by Newark NJ born Shaquille O’Neal and former Giant Lawrence Taylor. When in Rome also stars Don Johnson as Beth’s father, Danny DeVito as a Sausage King, Angelica Huston as Beth’s boss, Will Arnett as wannabe artist, Jon Heder doing a parody of Criss Angel, and Kristen Bell’s real life dude, Dax Shepard, who as much as I hate to admit it, is pretty funny. Even with this outstanding cast and a Jersey mention, when in Rome, do as The Sexy Armpit says and don’t bother.