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"MAMBO ITALIANO"
(2003) (Luke Kirby, Peter Miller) (R)

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QUICK TAKE:
Comedy: An aspiring TV writer must deal with the repercussions following his announcement to his conservative and traditional Italian parents that he's gay.
PLOT:
Angelo Barberini (LUKE KIRBY) is a 27-year-old Italian Canadian who rocks the family boat when he announces that he's moving out into his own place. His conservative and traditional parents, Maria (GINETTE RENO) and Gino (PAUL SORVINO), don't understand why he doesn't stay at home until he's married, but he needs to get out.

They're happy, however, when his new roommate turns out to be Nino Paventi (PETER MILLER), a former childhood friend and current cop. What they or Nino's mom, Lina (MARY WALSH), don't know, however, is that the two are lovers.

Angelo's live-at-home sister, Anna (CLAUDIA FERRI), knows that such news will kill their parents, but Angelo feels he must tell them. Once he does, however, he must deal with the repercussions from both families, as well as a straight woman, Pina Lunetti (SOPHIE LORAIN), putting the moves on Nino who's unsure of his sexual identity.

OUR TAKE: 3 out of 10
Whether it comes in the form of little golden statuettes or lots of moola at the box office, few probably desire success as much as those working in the movie business. Not only will either stoke and stroke massive egos, but they also usually ensure some job safety, at least until the next disappointment and/or disaster is released.

Such success also has a ripple down effect in spawning copycat versions of the original, successful work, or increasing hopes on similar efforts already in the pipeline. Considering the unexpected success and fabulous cost to profit ratio of last year's "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," we knew it was only a matter of time before other "ethnic" comedies would be unleashed on the unsuspecting masses.

One of the first is "Mambo Italiano," a broadly played, occasionally amusing but mostly increasingly agitating and annoying comedy. The title obviously indicates that the Italians have once again overtaken the Greeks, but this effort isn't the second coming of the Roman Empire (especially since it's set in Canada) and won't likely match the success of its predecessor.

That's not only due to the cumulative audience restriction imposed by the R rating, but also because it's not as good or enjoyable as "MBFGW." While the latter obviously struck a chord with viewers (to the tune of $240 million plus domestically), there were those (mainly critics) who didn't like or disapproved of the ethnic stereotypes and sitcom-style writing. Everyone obviously has their own opinions and tastes, but for those who had such problems with that previous offering, what's present here will likely be the equivalent of nails down the proverbial chalkboard.

As written by Steve Galluccio (making his debut from his own stage play) and co-writer/director Émile Gaudreault ("Wedding Night"), the film tells the tale of a travel agent-cum-aspiring TV writer who comes out of the closet to his traditional Italian parents.

Being stereotypical caricatures of the real thing, they obviously freak out - Italian style - and comedic repercussions and shenanigans ensue. Or at least that's the theory and/or goal. Yet, the way in which the filmmakers have conceived and executed the material - meaning in a slipshod, dumb and/or annoying fashion - results in a trying and less than entertaining experience.

Like those broadly played stereotypes, perhaps the revelatory coming out plot and related "humor" might have worked better, oh, I don't know, in the '70s on a TV sitcom, but all of that seems like old hat nowadays.

Possibly sensing that, the filmmakers have utilized voice over narration, various flashbacks and other visual devices in an attempt to spice things up. Alas, they and their broad, forced and over exaggerated characteristics mostly fall flat as well. The film's overall fractured and episodic nature doesn't help matters.

Not surprisingly, the performances mostly follow suit. The older generation on hand -- Ginette Reno ("Léolo," "It's Your Turn, Laura") and Paul Sorvino ("Bulworth," "Goodfellas") as the protagonist's parents and Mary Walsh ("Extraordinary Visitor," "New Waterford Girl") as his lover's mother - get the most embarrassing material. While some less discerning viewers might enjoy the over the top performances, they make the similar ones in "MBFGW" seem like normalcy in comparison.

As the conflicted protagonist, Luke Kirby ("Halloween: Resurrection," "Lost and Delirious") is about as flat and bland as one could imagine, while he and Peter Miller (making his feature film debut) have just about zero chemistry together. Claudia Ferri ("The Assignment," "Stardom") is on hand as the main character's shrill and neurotic sister, while Sophie Lorain ("Alice's Odyssey," "In Self-Defense") appears as a straight complication for the gay duo.

While I'm sure there will be those who enjoy this offering, the more adult content, coupled with the sitcom-style comedy, overacting and broadly played humor probably will ensure that this ethnic comedy won't be as "fat" as its Greek predecessor. "Mambo Italiano" rates as a 3 out of 10.




Reviewed September 22, 2003 / Posted October 3, 2003


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