Despite the misleading name, romantic comedies are seldom particularly funny. Most of the time, the comedy is just a benign backdrop for the romance, so a movie that aims squarely to be light entertainment never strays into overly serious territory. But When in Rome makes an honest attempt at being funny, filling out the supporting cast with actual comedians like Will Arnett, Dax Shepard, and Bobby Moynihan -- you know, the way that real comedies do.
The end result is indeed something a touch funnier than your average romcom, but not by a lot. It stars Kristen Bell as our hero, Beth. A tightly wound curator at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, Beth's never been lucky in love, so when she meets the tall, dark, and smarmy Nick (Josh Duhamel) while attending her sister's epic wedding in Rome, it takes a lot for her to admit she really likes him. But, of course, things don't go as planned, and Beth ends up drunk and angry and wading in a fountain that turns out to be magical. The handful of coins she pockets out of its recesses turn out to be the wishes for love cast by a handful of quirky men, and with the coins in her possession, their love inexplicably turns toward her. So now, back home, Beth's running all over New York trying to prepare for the Big Exhibition Her Whole Career Is Riding On, while a motley crew of stalkers chases her around, engaging in silly and embarrassing antics to demonstrate their love. All, of course, except for Nick, who is apparently under the same spell, but who is otherwise sane (and cute).
Bell and Duhamel do a lot with their roles -- which, if we're being honest, are mostly generic. On paper, Nick is kind of a sappy milquetoast, but Duhamel brings enough gravitas to make him seem a little rakish and fun. And though Bell is certainly talented (and, though it goes without saying, gorgeous) enough to say her lines and cash her checks, she still plays Beth with a lot of heart. In fact, the whole movie is generally sweet and appropriately charming -- just don't go in expecting something innovative or interesting or particularly hilarious. Will Arnett may be a comedic heavyweight, but most of his jokes still hinge on him wearing a silly wig and falling down a lot. That's all fine as long as you go in with the right expectations -- things are exceedingly cute, but rarely hysterical.