When in Rome (2010)

Rated: PG-13 for some suggestive content.
Length: 91 minutes
Grade: B+B-BD=B+
Budget: Unknown, perhaps $20 million
Box Office: $50 million (33 U.S., 10 Intl., 7 DVD)

Written by: David Diamond & David Weissman (Old Dogs, Evolution, and The Family Man).
Directed by: Mark Steven Johnson (Ghost Rider, Daredevil, Simon Birch)
Starring: Kristen Bell and Josh Duhamel
With: Anjelica Huston, Danny DeVito, Will Arnett, Jon Heder, Dax Shepard, Alexis Dziena, Kate Micucci, Lee Pace, and Don Johnson.

When a workaholic art curator is disenchanted with love unintentionally invokes a spell on five other men in an Italian wishing well, she must free them from the spell and figure out whether the one man she really likes is for real or just bewitched.

Entertainment Value: B+
I went into this movie not expecting terribly much. I was hoping for a not-too-terrible comedy romance with a few laughs that might be cute enough for me to not care how weak the plot was. What I got was an unexpectedly delightful little film. Oh, sure, it’s not great art (even though great art is part of the plot), but this is still a movie well worth watching. It is one of the few examples of an ensemble comedy sub-cast really working, including numerous cameos like Shaquille O’neal and Jack Black. There’s even a special appearance by Efren Ramirez (Pedro from Napoleon Dynamite) that’s hilarious. It’s silly and frivolous and quite funny.

Superficial Content: B-
Drugs/Alcohol B-, Sex/Nudity B-, Violence B, Language B
There are a couple of artistic renderings of nudity (brief, all of them), some alcohol consumption, a smattering of mild language, and some slapstick violence. I was actually surprised this movie got a PG-13. But given the vastness of the PG-13 scale these days, this is really on the lighter side. Maybe PG-10. If “Date Night” is PG-13, this should definitely be only PG. Then again, I think only teenagers would really care all that much about what’s going on in this movie anyhow.

Significant Content: B
The main themes here are not to be a workaholic and not to give up on the passionate sort of love that really lasts. The main character is afraid of becoming vulnerable to a man for real because she’s been burned so many times before. Instead she loves her job, which has become her spouse in a way. Another late development of this movie is that real love means sacrificing what you want for the benefit of someone else, brilliantly embodied by the four admirers deciding to help Beth get Nick at the end. And I must say that the best line of the movie comes from the multiple-marriage dad played by Don Johnson, who says, “The passion is in the risk.”

Artistic/Thought Value: D
It’s clearly not a deep film. Nevertheless, the ideas about love and idolatry of work are worth saying, even though they seem to be said in a lot of movies these days.

Discussion Questions:
~The message of this movie might be rephrased in Christianese as “Don’t let work become an idol which prevents you finding a relationship.” But is this movie simply offering romance as a substitute idol for work? What does this movie have to say for single people? What does Christianity have to say for single people? What important cautions does Christianity have against depending on a relationship with a mere human being for our deepest needs?
~The entire premise of this movie takes a kind of spell or witchcraft for granted. Does this bother you as a Christian? Should it? In what way might the spell in this movie be compared to the bewitching effects of sin and lust on men? If that comparison is made, does Kristin Bell become a kind of Christ figure who refuses to take advantage of a spell to get love?
~Have you ever become vulnerable and then been burned by it? How did that affect your willingness to try love again? In baseball, they say that you just go up and keep swinging. Is this a good piece of advice for single people?
~The question of whether you can ever know if love will last is major in this film, but it seems to be based on a false dilemma between either “just knowing in your heart” that something is right and “seeking more and more evidence to confirm a choice.” Is there any other way of thinking about love and commitment? Is there such a thing as true love? Is it something you discover or something you manufacture?
~Since women often have the luxury of not working when married, do you think these themes of work versus romance (such as in this movie or in Post Grad) work the same when the lead character is a man? Many men feel trapped by overwork precisely because leaving the job simply isn’t a gender-permitted option for them with a family. How would these movies change if the lead were a man?

Poignant or memorable scenes:
~Trying to break the wedding vase.
~The little Italian car, especially in the elevator.
Overall Grade: B
Fun. Much more fun than I expected. All the supporting comic characters seem to have been given the freedom to improve, and the result is entertaining. I seem to be one of the few who enjoyed this, but I don’t mind. I did.

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