You'd think by now Hollywood would have romantic comedies down to a cell-phone app any studio exec could access.
Cute couple? Check.
Romantic location? Check.
"Obstacles" to romance? Yup.
But if it were just a formula, you could hire any hack to turn Kristen Bell into America's new sweetheart in "When in Rome." Bell, a petite, pretty blonde, may or may not have the Meg Ryan-Julia Roberts-Sandra Bullock goods. But "When in Rome," a leaden variation on that rom-com recipe, fails utterly to make her case.
Bell plays Beth, a curator at the Guggenheim. She has a younger sister (Alexis Dziena) who's getting married in Rome. At the wedding, Beth is ready to be "open" to love, as her dad (Don Johnson) suggests. And devil-may-care sports reporter Nick (Josh Duhamel) fills that bill.
But he may be a womanizer, leading Beth to a drunken dip in the Fontana di Amore, where she steals a few coins and sets our plot in motion.
Those coins were wishes, and the men who tossed them - a sausage magnate (Danny DeVito), a screwball magician (Jon Heder), a demented Italian artist (Will Arnett) and a self-absorbed "model" (Dax Shepard) - are instantly smitten.
Can Beth shed her unwanted beaus and tumble for Mr. Right? Is Mr. Right pursuing her of his own free will, or did he toss a coin, too?
Despite her memorable turn in "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," Bell doesn't have Ryan's make-us-laugh-at-her-pain thing, Roberts' sass or Bullock's lovelorn shtick. This trip to the Eternal City feels interminable, thanks to her.