A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this romantic comedy depicts enchanted suitors who -- under a magical spell -- basically stalk a woman in a bid for her love. Although there's no explicit sexuality, there are several passionate kisses, and in one scene newlyweds appear topless except for an apron, which hides sensitive spots. There are a few comedic pratfalls, but no serious violence, and a few product placements that are obvious but not over-the-top. As is the case with many romantic comedies, the protagonist is a stereotype of a workaholic woman in search of love.
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What's the story?
Beth (Kristen Bell) is an ambitious modern-art curator at New York's Guggenheim Museum who puts work above all else. On a trip to Rome for her sister's wedding, she hits it off with dashing best man Nick (Josh Duhamel) ... until she sees him kissing another woman. Drunk and angry, Beth steps into a "fountain of love" and starts grabbing coins, which sparks a spell causing all of the men who threw the coins to instantly fall in love with her. Somehow, the men -- a street magician (Jon Heder), a sausage tycoon (Danny DeVito), a self-absorbed model (Dax Shepard), and an aspiring artist (Will Arnett) -- follow Beth around back in New York, while an equally smitten Nick tries to convince her to go out with him. Beth reluctantly starts believing in the spell and fears that Nick, the only suitor whose feelings she returns, isn't truly in love with her. Is his affection based on the fountain's powers, or just the magic of true love?
Is it any good?
Director Mark Steven Johnson deserves an award for wasting the talents of so many comic actors. The supporting actors are all much, much funnier in their other films, and the screenplay is so formulaic that even a fifth grader could guess what's bound to happen. Yes, Bell is adorable and Duhamel is hunky, but their looks alone can't save this utterly predictable and gag-inducing sappy story.
WHEN IN ROME is further proof that it's nearly impossible to find an original, memorable romantic comedy. The entire genre has been diluted into a series of stereotypes (including the over-dependence on cities like Rome and New York) and plot bunnies unworthy of undergraduate screenwriting courses. It's not that romantic comedies aren't worth watching as a whole (although the truly remarkable ones are getting rarer and rarer), but this one sure isn't.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the theme of real love versus unrequited infatuation. Does following someone you like around, sending them presents, and trying to force them to return your feelings work? Are the spellbound suitors funny, or do they seem creepy? What would teens do if this happened in real life?
What romantic-comedy stereotypes appear in this movie?