January 29, 2010

Last week I spent a glorious fifteen minutes on the phone with Will Arnett for this profile in the North Toronto Post. He told me all about the terrible bars he used to drink at, and then he laughed when I told him I once saw a girl vomiting on the sidewalk while in line to get into the Brunny. Classiest bar in Toronto.

But you don’t just get to talk to Will Arnett on the phone without jumping through a few hoops first. The main hoop is watching the terrible movie that he happens to be shilling right now. I had to see his movie before speaking with him; this was insisted upon by Disney. The easiest thing to do when one writer needs to see a movie is to courier out an embargoed screener copy. But this is not good enough for Disney. When Disney wants one writer to see a movie, they prefer to rent out a whole movie theatre. Which is how I came to be watching When in Rome in an otherwise empty AMC auditorium at ten a.m. on a Monday morning.

Until that morning, I thought that in order for a situation to be awkward, there had to be at least one other person present. After all, awkwardness is a social construct, right? Shouldn’t it take two to awkward? Not always. There is a way to feel awkward when you are all alone, and that is watching When in Rome all by yourself in an AMC auditorium at ten on a Monday morning.

When you watch a bad comedy in a full theatre, some of the badness is absorbed by the foolish guffaws of your fellow audience members. But when you watch a bad comedy all alone, every terrible joke is magnified, landing like a stone and then reverberating its badness outward. You can’t laugh. You can only cringe.

When in Rome is one of those insulting romantic comedies where no one ever behaves like any normal socialized human would. Instead of character development or actual jokes, everyone just falls down and walks into things a lot. And then a bunch of people cram into a tiny car, except you can tell it’s digitally altered and it just looks plain stupid. This would be a dismissable, if not forgivable, crime if it weren’t for the cast that is totally wasted here. How dare you cast The Piemaker as the cardboard evil ex-boyfriend with only one line? Poor Veronica Mars is doing her best, and at least she gets a cute monologue about art in the single decent scene in the movie, but she’s better than this. Anjelica Huston and Danny DeVito must owe someone a favour or something and our poor pal Will is stuck in the grossest wig ever. Ugh, and that terrible Napoleon Dynamite dude is there too and he brought Pedro with him, because apparently this movie is actually an SNL sketch from 2004.

And even though they apparently did shoot on location in Rome, it still looks like they filmed it on a sound stage. And the career-making art exhibit the main character curates looks like a Hollister display. Blech.

But maybe I just don’t understand romance.

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