REVIEW: When In Rome

29 08 2010

I was preparing for the worst when I popped “When In Rome” into my DVD player.  It’s a romantic comedy, so that means a marriage to formula and the same old gimmicks for an easy laugh.  But the thing about low standards is that it becomes a whole lot easier for a movie to really surprise you.  Such was the case here.

Shockingly enough, it’s not half bad.  I’m sure you are shaking your heads, saying it’s not possible for a romantic comedy that looked pretty uninspired from the previews to actually be any good.  And I’m not saying that this a new classic for the genre or that it has successfully introduced a new formula into the romantic comedy lexicon.  It’s nothing highly original or innovative.  All I’m saying is that something about “When In Rome” … works.

At the start of the movie, I was preparing to hate Kristen Bell’s character Beth after she can’t stop rambling to herself about a bad experience in an Applebee’s.  It’s even worse because she’s a high-brow art curator and Guggenheim obsessive, something regular Applebee’s customers usually aren’t too fond of.  Yet at her sister’s wedding in Italy, she gets a little too much champagne in her and makes an impulsive decision, yanking coins out of a fountain of love.

All of a sudden, that paradoxical facade is wiped away, and Beth is someone we can actually like as she is thrown into a crazy situation.  She had never been the kind to actively seek love, but by taking the coins, the men who threw them come looking to her for love.  Four men are over-the-moon smitten for her: a sausage mogul (Abe Froman, anyone?) played by Danny DeVito, an Italian painter played by Will Arnett, a model in love with himself as much as Beth played by Dax Shepard, and a loopy magician played by Jon Heder.

And then there’s a wild card thrown into the mix: the best man at her sister’s wedding, Josh Duhamel’s charming Nick, seems to be quite interested in Beth after they had a connection at the reception.  Her concern at first is that these four men will ruin her chance with Nick, but she soon realizes that he could just easily be one of her head-over-heels lovers.  It’s a bit of a romantic mystery, enough to keep a little bit of suspense throughout the fun and funny “When In Rome.”  B /

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REVIEW: Nacho Libre

23 10 2009

PREFACE: I mentioned back in Random Factoid #42 that I had gone through a stint of reviewing movies when I was 13. After rummaging through my old home computer, I managed to find some of these reviews. In a special five day mini-series, I will reveal these reviews in their unadulterated form. I leave it up to you to comment, see how my style has changed (or maybe hasn’t). The fourth and penultimate review is of “Nacho Libre,” the second film from the creators of cult hit turned mainstream “Napoleon Dynamite.”

Napoleon Dynamite became a comic success because of how incredibly pathetic it was.  After watching it, you were left to think, “What was that?”  Nacho Libre was advertised to be just that, but this movie actually had a plot.  I’m not so sure that is such a good thing.  Napoleon Dynamite was an anti-climatic string of strange and pitiful events, and Nacho Libre was awkward nonetheless.  I expected it to be Napoleon Dynamite Goes Mexico, and I couldn’t have been more wrong.  Jon Heder put his soul into Napoleon because no one knew who he was, so he had nothing to lose by performing the hell out of him.  Jack Black, on the other hand, feels afraid to dive into character.  He plays the friar Ignacio (nicknamed Nacho) at a Mexican monastery who cooks for the orphans.  However, he has two ungodly interests…wrestling and a new nun at the monastery (played by Ana de la Reguera).  He has no money to buy fresh food with, so he is often left to brew awkward concoctions with chips that a local restaurant owner leaves for him.  While picking up these chips, he gets attacked by a limber homeless guy who steals the chips.  Nacho later recruits this drifter to be his wrestling partner.  Together, they become “Lucha Libre” fighters.  2stars

(NOTE: I get the feeling that this review was unfinished due to its brevity.  I don’t feel right trying to finish it, given the desired effect of posting these reviews.)