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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

When in Rome

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service

While the familiar proverb that supplies its title ultimately derives from the advice of one church father (St. Ambrose of Milan) quoted in the writings of another (St. Augustine of Hippo), the perky romantic comedy "When in Rome" (Touchstone) draws on the Eternal City's religious heritage only incidentally.

The graceful 17th-century church of St. Mary Magdalene—known colloquially as La Maddalena—does, however, provide the setting for the marriage ceremony at which its two main characters first meet and begin to fall in love.

Beth (Kristen Bell) is a work-obsessed curator at New York's Guggenheim Museum who has reluctantly taken 48 hours of personal time to serve as her sister Joan's (Alexis Dziena) maid of honor. The gent catching Beth's eye is best man Nick (Josh Duhamel), once Italian groom Umberto's (Luca Calvani) college roommate, and now a Gotham sportswriter.

Despite Beth's unhappy track record in previous relationships, the pair quickly bond during the lavish reception. But just as Beth's hopes begin to rise, she witnesses an incident that convinces her that Nick is a frivolous cad.

Wading despondently through the waters of the nearby "Fountain of Love," Beth shows her renewed cynicism by removing several of the coins that passers-by customarily toss into the basin for good luck in matters of the heart. According to the film's fanciful mythology, this ill-advised gesture immediately causes the quartet of eccentric strangers who deposited the change to become hopelessly infatuated with her.

So, once back in the Big Apple, Beth finds herself being relentlessly pursued and incongruously wooed by sausage magnate Al (Danny DeVito), street magician Lance (John Heder), aspiring artist Antonio (Will Arnett) and Gale (Dax Shepard), a would-be model enthralled by his own physique.

Though Nick eventually regains Beth's trust, successfully explaining away his apparent misbehavior, another obstacle arises when Beth suspects a poker chip she also retrieved from the fountain is his, meaning that he is merely under a spell and not freely— and therefore truly—in love.

Father Dino (Keir O'Donnell), the youthful, slightly pixilated priest who performs Joan and Umberto's nuptials, and who reappears in a couple of last-reel scenes, comes in for some gentle ribbing. But he's essentially an appealing character, and the closest the humor comes to anything remotely troublesome is the sight of him break dancing in his chasuble over the closing credits.

Otherwise, director Mark Steven Johnson's pleasantly diverting ensemble piece is mostly worry-free, with only a fleeting scene of newlywed friskiness that sees Joan in the kitchen wearing only an apron and Umberto, embracing her from behind, wearing apparently nothing at all, to bar endorsement for teens.

The film contains brief nongraphic marital lovemaking with implied nudity, mildly irreverent portrayal of a clergyman and a few crass expressions. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of the Office for Film & Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. More reviews are available online at www.usccb.org/movies.



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Joan of Arc: 
		<p>Burned at the stake as a heretic after a politically-motivated trial, Joan was beatified in 1909 and canonized in 1920.</p>
		<p>Born of a fairly well-to-do peasant couple in Domremy-Greux (southeast of Paris), Joan was only 12 when she experienced a vision and heard voices that she later identified as Sts. Michael the Archangel, Catherine of Alexandria, and Margaret of Antioch.</p>
		<p>During the Hundred Years War, she led French troops against the English and recaptured the cities of Orléans and Troyes. This enabled Charles VII to be crowned as king in Reims in 1429. Captured near Compiegne the following year, she was sold to the English and placed on trial for heresy and witchcraft. Professors at the University of Paris supported Bishop Pierre Cauchon of Beauvis, the judge at her trial; Cardinal Henry Beaufort of Winchester, England, participated in the questioning of Joan in prison. In the end, she was condemned for wearing men's clothes. The English resented France's military success–to which Joan contributed. </p>
		<p>On this day in 1431, she was burned at the stake in Rouen, and her ashes were scattered in the Seine River. A second Church trial 25 years later nullified the earlier verdict, which was reached under political pressure.</p>
		<p>Remembered by most people for her military exploits, Joan had a great love for the sacraments, which strengthened her compassion toward the poor. Popular devotion to her increased greatly in 19th-century France and later among French soldiers during World War I. Theologian George Tavard writes that her life "offers a perfect example of the conjunction of contemplation and action" because her spiritual insight is that there should be a "unity of heaven and earth."</p>
		<p>Joan of Arc has been the subject of many books, plays, operas, and movies. </p>
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