‘Rome’ with a phew: No romance, no comedy

"When in Rome" operates on the assumption that if three coins in the fountain are good, five should be that much better.

Alas, three was plenty, and the surplus coinage in "Rome" creates a kind of inflation - too much romantic destiny chasing way too few laughs.

"Rome" stars Kristen Bell as a frosty career gal who has a miserable time at a Roman wedding (her sister's) and leaves, pausing to denounce a fountain famous for granting romance to those who wish for it via the toss of a coin.

She's a bitter, cynical, single woman who doesn't believe in love, for herself or anybody else, so instead of chucking a coin into the fountain, she pulls five of them out.

Unforeseen consequence: By reversing the flow of romantic energy, she causes the owners of the five coins to fall in love with her, all with a stalker-ish passion that's played for Pepe Le Pew laughs.

Under her spell are a magician (Jon Heder), a vapid male model (Dax Shepard), a sausage salesmen (Danny DeVito), a starving artist (Will Arnett) and the handsome hunk (Josh Duhamel).

Right away, you detect a failure of comic imagination. All guys? What are the odds?

And why not a woman? Wouldn't that be funnier?

Or maybe a dead guy, who could crawl out of a grave and stalk her as a zombie. Or a celebrity cameo. Mike Tyson worked in "The Hangover," and he'd pay big dividends here.

Even better - as long as we're on the theme of coins, how about the coin-flipping hit man that Javier Bardem played in "No Country for Old Men"? Now, that would be funny. Showing up with his shotgun and silencer, and a dozen roses.

Anyway, "Rome" is saddled with five same-ish guys, and each seems less funny than the next.

Meanwhile, we're left to wonder whether handsome hunk Duhamel is actually in love with her, or merely a victim of the coin thing.

It's not much of a mystery, or a movie.


When in Rome

Directed by Mark Steven Johnson. With Kristen Bell, Bobby Moynihan, Kate Micucci, Jon Heder, Alexis Dziena, Anjelica Huston, Danny DeVito, Dax Shepard, Josh Duhamel, Will Arnett. Distributed by Walt Disney Pictures.

Running time: 1 hours, 31 minutes.

Parent's guide: PG-13 (for some suggestive content).