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Little Italy – Movie Review

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Little Italy – Movie Review

Rating: D (Very Bad)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy eOne Films

The romantic comedy has become a bit more of a rarity these days, mostly due to too many lackluster entries in the genre. That’s a shame, because there’s room to make something sweet and funny involving two people falling in love. Unfortunately, Little Italy is the sort of bottom-of-the-barrel movie that does the rom-com a disservice. Relying primarily on a tired “Romeo & Juliet” story, the film is filled with broad stereotypes and some of the most obnoxious product placement imaginable. There is a lack of charm in this production, despite the potential to create something that celebrates the Italian-Canadian community in Toronto.

It doesn’t take long for Little Italy to show how it will depict its characters. Director Donald Petrie has the actors play the Italian families with exaggerated facial expressions and constantly moving their hands. These don’t feel like genuine people, but rather a screenwriter’s view of what Italians are like from watching Alka-Seltzer commercials from the 1970s. The stereotypes are not merely limited to Italians. Indians, the gay community and the British are also given over-the-top characters that only exist in these kinds of movies. Emma Roberts’s lead protagonist Nikki is the only character feels like she could exist in some form of reality, as underwritten as she may be.

The movie tries to divide time between the central romance and the feuding pizza-making families, although struggles to properly develop both storylines. Roberts and Hayden Christensen lack any sort of chemistry, as the film attempts to create meet-cute moments over pizza and rainy soccer matches. A number of contrivances common in lesser romantic comedies rear their head here. There are also entire subplots that immediately get dropped or are tied up haphazardly for the convenience of the plot. This is a movie where a major character is arrested and spends a night in jail and this is never brought up again. The movie attempts to create intrigue by not revealing why this pizzeria feud started, but the plot is so unengaging, it’s hard to care.

The jokes never land, partly because they’re delivered towards the back of the theatre. In addition to the stereotypes and over-the-top acting, the humour is incredibly forced. There have been many bad Godfather jokes since that film was released in 1972, but Little Italy may contain the worst and most embarrassing reference to that classic. The product plugs for Air Canada and Starbucks Coffee are particularly hard to ignore, with entire scenes existing merely to advertise their services. When Air Canada is given a “special thanks” as soon as the end credits begin, a lot of things start to make sense. At the very least, we know this will be an in-flight movie option as long as airplanes remain one of the preferred ways to travel.

Little Italy is one of those fascinatingly bad movies that comes along once in a while. The producers managed to scoop up some talented actors for this, but the movie feels like a sitcom destined to be cancelled after only airing three episodes. It’s outstanding how laugh-free Little Italy is and watching it is a mesmerizing experience that merely describing its contents doesn’t do it justice. The Canadian cinema that is often celebrated are the serious efforts of auteurs like Denis Villeneuve, Atom Egoyan and Denys Arcand. However, peoples’ tax dollars also go towards funding comedic vacuums like Little Italy. It’s almost worth it to show what Canadian films are also capable of.

 

Stefan Ellison
THE SCENE


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