That being said, there are a few things that a romantic comedy requires in order to work. There needs to be two primary characters with chemistry. In this modern world that doesn't need to mean a man and a woman (see 'Imagine Me & You). However, those two characters need to have some kind of chemistry, otherwise the movie doesn't work. This is the case with 'When In Rome'. Kristen Bell and Josh Duhamel have ZERO chemistry. None what-so-ever. It's like watching two complete strangers awkwardly pretend to like each other; which is exactly what it is, except they are actors and it should look like they like each other, or at least have some kind of interest in each other.
A romantic comedy also must have a story. Let's look at a couple of examples: 'Never Been Kissed' (one of my favorites). Journalist Josie Geller is a dowdy, dateless woman who goes back to her high school to write about teenagers today (well, 1999-today). She ends up meeting a man, her teacher, who is her same age though he doesn't know this, and she falls for him. It's funny, witty, predicable but, entertaining. There is chemistry between Drew Barrymore and Michael Vartan. There is a story. It works. Another is 'Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day'. The story is moving, and funny and sweet: Mrs.Pettigrew, a governess, gets fired and sneaks her way into the home of Delysia LaFosse, who mistakes her for a new hire and she immediately whirls her into her glamorous life and many boyfriends. But, true to romantic comedy form there needs to be a coupling. This movie has two: Miss Pettigrew meets and falls in love with Joe, a ladies underthings designers and Delysia has to choose between her true love Michael and the man who gives her all she wants monetarily, Nick. The actors are believable and likable, there are two stories, Bharat Nalluri is a great director and the production design is fantastic.
So, what about 'When In Rome'? What didn't this movie have? It didn't have anything that a romantic comedy should have. I already mentioned the chemistry part, but it doesn't have a story, charm, appeal, emotion...anything. It's like an hour and a half of looking at a screen trying to count the pixels on the digital projection...from the back of the theatre. Seriously, that's what I was doing. People were laughing and I was trying to figure out why I was just sitting there, then I realized these were the same people who willingly paid to see Alvin and the Fucktards 2.
'When In Rome' is about Beth, a workaholic who can't keep a man because she loves her job too much. She even says, "When I find a man that I love more than my job..." She says something else too, but I honestly only paid attention when I wasn't counting pixels. What's her job? Well, she's a curator. Where? Apparently at the Guggenheim, but we don't learn this, unless you recognize it in the beginning, until later. Oh, they also use the exact same music tracks in the beginning of the movie that they used in the trailer; it's like the laziness never ended. She's at some kind of thing and her friends (an obligatory fat girl, skinny-odd girl and a male-gay) all tell her that her ex (the gorgeous and underused in everything, Lee Pace) is there. She goes into this long diatribe about how he wouldn't dare show up there, blah, blah, blah, until the three friends all stare drop-jawed at her and she says, "He's behind me isn't he?" Yes, that's never used in anything, so thanks for putting it in here. This never happens in real life; in real life a person that overheard something would either walk away or bust in and say, "Yeah, I can hear you!" Oh, and then the ex starts yakking about how he was wrong and wants to start new and...as she's assuming he means with her, he says, "I'm getting engaged!" Everyone assumes the two of them are and...you get it.
After this VERY brief idea of who this character is, and a brief realization that you don't give a shit who she is, and since you were given little to sympathize with her over, you know you don't care to learn anything else about her later (don't worry, you won't), now we meet her sister who just pops up at her apartment announcing she's getting married to some dude she met on that plane to Italy. BUT THE WEDDING IS IN TWO DAYS! And Beth has an important exhibition that Morticia Adams has put her in charge of! Oh Deary Me!
Boom! We're in Rome. No more character development, nothing. Just 'I need to go to Rome', a bitchy boss, and a cab ride showing the audience all the places in Rome everyone already knows about. She's the Maid of Honor and everyone is waiting for the Best Man. In rushes...(I have to look up his name, I honestly have no clue what it was. Ben? Chuck? Percy?) Nick. Everyone looks at him, his phone rings, he drops it, and drops it, and drops it and drops it and drops itanddropsitanddropsit! So many God-damned times that after the first forty-two times you get the freakin' point. They awkwardly glance at each other and then a bunch of scenes from the trailer (I'm not even kidding) take place. At some point (more trailer scenes) she ends up in the Fontana D'Amore, drunk, and starts gathering up coins. Every coin she picks up had a wish for love attached to it (more trailer scenes. They could have had something with this premise and I think this is where the original idea grew, but it just went
More and more stupid shit happens that really had no point other than to annoy the crap out of the audience. All the dumb men chase her around and all the while she "falls in love" with Nick, though we don't see why or how or even care about either of them. We don't care about anyone in this movie. But the problem is that she thinks he threw a coin in the fountain and so he's not really in love with her. But how to know? Don't care. You know how it ends and in this movie, it doesn't matter, you just want it to end.
The one funny part of this movie was when they went to some kind of "lights-out" restaurant where you eat in the dark. Apparently this is a real thing, though lord knows why anyone would want to eat in complete darkness. Why is this funny? Well if you are a fan of 'Flight of the Conchords' you will recognize the weird waitress/hostess as Mel the obsessive fan of the two boys from New Zealand. That's the only good thing and it ends pretty quickly when, for some stupid reason, all the men following her show up at the restaurant with night-vision goggles to profess their love to her.
Oh, you get more pratfalls, like when Nick runs into a tree and falls into one of those open sidewalk grate things that are in New York. People actually laughed, though it wasn't in the least bit humorous; not even worth making fun of. Coming from me, that's bad... If you are going to use pratfalls, you have to use them wisely and make sure that the actor doing them can pull them off (Drew Barrymore getting hit in the face by the door, for example). Neither of these two can make them work. Sorry.
What else do you get? Oh, you get BAD dialogue. Some of the worst, cheesiest dialogue ever. Sappy, stupid looks and kissing that is so bland and WTF? in feeling that even the purest little soul could watch and think, "Twilight was hard-core porn compared to this!" The dumbest and most inane thing was having Pedro not only play John Heder's cameraman, talking like Pedro but playing Juan or something, but then for some reason, adding him, as Pedro from 'Napolean Dynamite', in the end dance-montage that no one asked for, nor believes. It was so stupid!
A movie that I find this bad (So bad I can't even bring myself to mock it) only comes along so often. It's been awhile. You might ask: What the hell happened here? How did this get through with no one bothering to say, "Let's shelve this one?" Who the hell directed this crap-fest? Well, in answer to that last one, Mark Steven Johnson, that's who. If you said, "Who?", well I'll make it easy for you: Dare-devil, Elektra and Ghostrider. 'Nuff said. He also had a hand in writing various parts of all that crap listed above.
In closing, let me state: I found this movie so inane, stupid and worthless as entertainment that I would have watched a quadruple-feature line-up including '2012', 'The Day After Tomorrow', 'Alvin and the Chipmunks' and any of the 45 various 'Ice Age's, 'Shrek's or 'Saw's; and for note: I pretty much hate all of those things.