September 8, 2008

Movie Review: Everybody Wants to be Italian

Here is a movie that I did not expect much from. It is a good thing, too, as I didn't get a lot out of it. However, I suspect it was sort of meant to be that way. It is a lighthearted farce that does not take itself too seriously. It seemingly wants to mimic the success of movies like My Big Fat Greek Wedding, substituting Italy for Greece and Jay Jablonski for Nia Vardalos. Unfortunately, this film lacks much of the charm, character, and solid story of the 2002 indie hit. To its credit, there are plenty of laughs and chuckles to be had, and a more or less grounded story to hold your attention through to the end. Just try not to think to hard about it.

Everybody Wants to be Italian is set in Boston and centers on Jake (Jablonski). He runs a fish store, where he works with a couple of guys with intellectual aspirations. The thrust of the story is firmly on Jake who cannot let go of his ex-girlfriend of eight years, despite her being married with three children. The guys in the fish shop are sick to death of his pining for for her, his insistence they are still an item, and annual ritual of proposing (complete with new suit and ring), that when a chance meeting with a lovely young woman in the alley behind the shop, they leap into action. What follows is the birth of a dysfunctional relationship that in any version of reality would not have made it past the first date, if it even got that far.

One day, one of the guys at the shop bumps into the lovely Marisa (Cerina Vincent). Seizing an opportunity, he invites her to an Italian singles club. He has the intention of introducing her to Jake, in an attempt to get him off his ex and into a new relationship. This proves to be initially tricky, as Jake isn't Italian. This triggers all sorts of advice on how to pass as an Italian.

Following the initial, positive meeting, the two meet to go on a date. It is here that things start to go wrong, caused by Jake's need to be open and honest about his relationship with his ex, who he thinks isn't an ex. So it goes, will Marisa get fed up with his antics? Will Jake abandon his sever case of arrested development? How will Isabella factor in?

The story is very straightforward, there are no side journeys into other characters, nothing extra to flesh out the main story. That is one of the biggest downfalls of the film. There were plenty of opportunities to make the story better, yet the focus remained steadfastly on Jake, who is such a one note character that he becomes annoying after awhile.

The title refers to Jake not being Italian, yet trying to pretend to be one while dating an Italian girl. It also refers to Marisa also not being Italian, yet pretending to be. I cannot quite figure out the focus on being Italian for this movie, aside from the supposed "clever" title. It is not all that important a factor to the story. In fact, it really has no impact on the story, how it plays out, or how it is resolved.

If you go into the movie with no expectations and make no attempt to become involved with the film, it is a moderately enjoyable time. Some of the jokes and sequences are amusing and the movie goes down easily. There is nothing wrong with this approach, but if stop and try to apply any level of logic, the whole exercise falls apart.

The problem comes back to Jake, his central role in the plot, and the seeming unwillingness to explore any other characters or introduce any real conflict or complication. The character of Jake is such a psycho, the things he does should not allow him to create, much less maintain, any level of serious relationship. Top that with the way he acts with Marisa, and there is no reason why this guy should not spend his days alone.

There are a few times that offer up potential for deepening the story, but they are not taken advantage of. The biggest one involves the sequence where Jake tells his ex, Isabella, that he is leaving her. It is a poignant seen that I was sad not to see followed up with anything of import. There is also the sequence when Isabella seems to come back of her own volition. These are just two examples of missed opportunities.

Overall, the movie is entertaining, don't get me wrong, but it is so not nearly as good as it could have been. It was written and directed by Jason Todd Ipson (not Italian), whose last film to reach the national stage was part of the After Dark Horror Fest, a movie called Unrest. He does a decent job of keeping the pace going, although the writing leaves something to be desired.

The acting is decent, with the supporting cast doing much of the stronger work and with Cerina Vincent being absolutely lovely on the screen. She is not the greatest of actresses, and is probably best known for shaving her legs off in Cabin Fever and as the naked exchange student, Areola, in Not Another Teen Movie than she is for any acting acumen.

Bottomline. If you are in need of a romantic diversion, this will fill the bill until something better comes along. Just don't go in expecting mush.

Mildly Recommended.


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