Kristen Bell plays Beth, a rich young gorgeous art curator with a giant apartment in New York City and a job at the Guggenheim. Her dad dates beach volleyball players. Her love interest is Nick (Josh Duhamel) who is a rich young gorgeous sports writer from New York who isn't in pro football only because he got struck by lightning during a game. So these are like totally blue collar people. Why don't you just make the characters a princess and a fucking Kennedy in the first place? The PR release blurb tells us: "Beth is a young, ambitious New Yorker who is completely unlucky in love." Yeah, I'm not saying that rich, young and gorgeous people don't have problems too, it's just that I don't care on account of being dead and cynical inside.
So Beth goes to Rome because her silly little sister Joan who believes in magic decides to marry an Italian guy she meets on the plane. It's like true love and stuff. Of course blonde nordic Kristen Bell's sister is played by brunette slavic Alexis Dziena. Their parents are played by a pair of blondes in Don Johnson and Peggy Lipton. I wonder if Joan was just acting out impulsively after discovering the shocking secret of her adoption?
In any case, there's a magic fountain into which people toss coins and wish for love, but after Beth gets tipsy, she climbs right into the MacGuffin and steals a few coins, which in whimsical movie logic makes the people who tossed in said coins fall madly in love with her. That's some awfully shitty magic fountain design right there. And in a coincidence of truly epic statistical ignorance, all of the coins she steals were tossed in not only by men (because it's always men throwing "I wish somebody loved me, my enormous thighs and my twelve cats" coins into fountains in Rome) but by men from New York City who Beth can then meet. The only thing more annoying than New Yorkers telling us that New York is the center of the universe is a story premised on New York actually being the center of the universe.
Plot idiocy aside, there's also all of the character idiocy as the complete lack of hilarity ensues and four complete strangers proceed to creepily stalk Beth now that they've been essentially brainwashed. Danny Devito is inexplicably slumming it in there as one of the stalkers, and Will Arnett continues driving his career off of a cliff. Jon Heder is as annoying as he's been in every film of his career as his latest Napoleon Dynamite rip off is a street magician. There must have been a package deal going since Heder even brings along the guy who played Pedro and sticks him in a baby blue tux. Because Napoleon Dynamite references dovetail so naturally with shitty romantic comedy.
The film tries to use physical comedy throughout, and it all falls completely and totally flat. Josh Duhamel just dropped his phone and can't pick it up because it's vibrating too hard. Ha ha. Now Josh is walking into an open hole on the street. He he. Will Arnett is chasing Kristen Bell and trips and goes flying over a horse carriage. Ho ho. Oh I am laughing so hard my side hurts, oh wait, that's just my heart clawing its way out through my ribs to leave the theater.
Beth realizes that she loves Nick towards the end of the movie. This only counts as a spoiler if you have never seen a movie in your life. And if you haven't, I apologize, because I just spoiled every romantic comedy that you will ever see. Which I hope for your sake can be represented by a number less than three.
Their entire relationship is based on a dance and about half a date. They have literally never had a conversation about anything more than small talk. But they looooooove each other. Romantic comedies are pornography of the short cut. They drool over the dramatic entrance and the grand gesture and don't linger any longer. But love is not a dozen roses given on bended knee in the moonlight, any more than it's a pelvis cracking orgasm on the kitchen floor. Spectacular moments are nothing in and of themselves, they're nothing without the context of the years and years of accumulated small moments. Waking up every morning side by side, the way she rubs his shoulders, the way he makes her eggs for breakfast. It can't just be small moments or it's a merciless grind, but they're the thing that makes the big moments big in the first place. You don't get the moments without the years and you don't get the years without the moments.
Steven Lloyd Wilson is a hopeless romantic and the last scion of Norse warriors and the forbidden elder gods. His novel, ramblings, and assorted fictions coalesce at www.burningviolin.com. You can email him here.
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