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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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Andrew Dung-Lac and Companions: Andrew Dung-Lac was one of 117 people martyred in Vietnam between 1820 and 1862. Members of this group were beatified on four different occasions between 1900 and 1951. All were canonized by St. John Paul II. 
<p>Christianity came to Vietnam (then three separate kingdoms) through the Portuguese. Jesuits opened the first permanent mission at Da Nang in 1615. They ministered to Japanese Catholics who had been driven from Japan. </p><p>The king of one of the kingdoms banned all foreign missionaries and tried to make all Vietnamese deny their faith by trampling on a crucifix. Like the priest-holes in Ireland during English persecution, many hiding places were offered in homes of the faithful. </p><p>Severe persecutions were again launched three times in the 19th century. During the six decades after 1820, between 100,000 and 300,000 Catholics were killed or subjected to great hardship. Foreign missionaries martyred in the first wave included priests of the Paris Mission Society, and Spanish Dominican priests and tertiaries. </p><p>Persecution broke out again in 1847 when the emperor suspected foreign missionaries and Vietnamese Christians of sympathizing with a rebellion led by of one of his sons. </p><p>The last of the martyrs were 17 laypersons, one of them a 9-year-old, executed in 1862. That year a treaty with France guaranteed religious freedom to Catholics, but it did not stop all persecution. </p><p>By 1954 there were over a million and a half Catholics—about seven percent of the population—in the north. Buddhists represented about 60 percent. Persistent persecution forced some 670,000 Catholics to abandon lands, homes and possessions and flee to the south. In 1964, there were still 833,000 Catholics in the north, but many were in prison. In the south, Catholics were enjoying the first decade of religious freedom in centuries, their numbers swelled by refugees. </p><p>During the Vietnamese war, Catholics again suffered in the north, and again moved to the south in great numbers. Now the whole country is under Communist rule.</p> American Catholic Blog To replace our sins with virtues may seem like a daunting task, but fortunately we can follow the example of the saints who have 
successfully defeated these sins in their lifetimes. They provide us with a way forward so that we, too, can live holy, virtuous lives.

 
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