Out of print for more than 30 years, now available for the first time as an eBook, this is the controversial story of John Wooden's first 25 years and first 8 NCAA Championships as UCLA Head Basketball Coach. Notre Dame Coach Digger Phelps said, "I used this book as an inspiration for the biggest win of my career when we ended UCLA's all-time 88-game winning streak in 1974."

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When in Rome (1/10)

by Tony Medley

Run time 91 minutes.

OK for children.

I first saw “Three Coins in the Fountain” at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood. There was a replica of Trevi Fountain (the fountain in Rome into which the three coins were thrown) in the lobby. It was a charming, entertaining film. So I was looking forward to this, thinking it would be similar.

However, it would be hard to concoct a more inane movie than this. I didn’t know much about it until I got to the screening. Even though I was looking forward to it, when I read the Notes and I saw that it was directed by Mark Steven Johnson, who was responsible for “Daredevil” (2003), a groaner if ever there was one, my expectations dove.

They continued to plummet after the opening titles. Low as is my opinion of Johnson, I can’t think of a director who could bring life to this bereft script (David Diamond & David Weissman).

Actually, they were working with a story that had possibilities. A job-oriented woman, Beth (Kristen Bell), who has just been dumped by her boyfriend (confirmed in a scene that defies credulity), goes to Rome for the marriage of her younger sister, Joan (Alexis Dziena). There she meets a guy, Nick (Josh Duhamel), she likes. But he disappoints her as a result of a misunderstanding. She jumps in and disdainfully plucks magic coins from a fountain of love, thrown by four hopeful lovers, in the words of “Three Coins in the Fountain.” When she takes the coins out of the fountain, it supernaturally ignites the passions of those who threw them in, all of them unattractive:  a sausage magnate, Al (Danny Devito), a street magician, Lance (Jon Heder), a painter, Antonio (Will Arnett), and a narcissistic model, Gale (Dax Shepard).  Meanwhile, Nick pursues her, too.

This could have been gold in the hands of someone like Leo McCarey and a competent cast. But Johnson and his scriptwriters completely drop the ball, and the cast screams lack of talent. There are so many annoying things about this movie it’s hard to single them out.

The script is so moronic that it is difficult to rate actors who have to mouth the blather and act out the contrived scenes. Even so, some are grating on their own, regardless of what they are saying. Suffice it to say that the majority of the actors, especially Bobby Moynihan (from Saturday Night Live), who plays Puck, one of Nick’s friends, and Dziena, are so irritating they could seamlessly fit into the worst chick flick. Bell is particularly unsympathetic. The script is grating, to be sure, but Bell adds nothing that would make one empathetic with her.

The four guys pursuing Beth do the best with what they are given. If any of them stands out, it’s Heder. All four are supposed to disagreeable, and they are. Beth and Joan, on the other hand, aren’t supposed to be disagreeable, but they are.

 There are only two redeeming virtues in this thing. The shots of Rome are pretty good, like a travelogue. But Johnson even screws this up. Apparently intent on showing the Vatican, he has a cab drive Beth to her hotel through St. Peter’s Square. There is no hotel in Rome that would have a route through the Vatican to get there, unless you were starting at the Vatican which Beth wasn’t.

Alone among the cast, Duhamel overcame the drivel. He’s not in that many scenes, as it’s a story about Beth, but if the film has any bright spot, it’s Josh.

January 28, 2010