Occasionally, a film writer will finish a movie, look up to the heavens and scream “I have to write about *this* now?!” They may not, but that’s something that happened to me after watching the risible Little Italy – a film so dated that it felt as if someone body slammed it into the early ’00s.
As a fairly low rent romcom, the expectations towards this were low. However, there’s enough talent involved in the production that the limp result that is delivered is rather feeble. When a straight man reviews a movie such as this, it’s easy to merely discard the opinion as the genre “isn’t for him”. But such reasoning shouldn’t be used when the film is markedly feeble.
Tired tropes and platitudes will always be used. Particularly in romantic comedies which need to hit the ground running in terms of their story and characters. But Little Italy is just lame and blissfully unaware of just how naff the whole endeavour actually is. It’s not even put together well. With a stock shot of an airplane taken a character back to New York from London shown to be taking the person the wrong way. Such a glaring piece of bad geography wouldn’t matter if the film didn’t appear to be breaking the 180-degree rule soon after, or if the people within the film were remotely interesting, but here we are. We’ve been here before. Two inseparable childhood friends who reconnect after a period apart. They’ve now grown up. They now look pleasing to the eye in new ways. You know where this is going.
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Only this time, the story takes place in Little Italy, New York with Emma Roberts and Hayden Christensen trapped between their two warring families. The two families used to run a pizza place together. Now they are divided due to reasons unknown. Robert’s character coming back from culinary school to get her bearing on setting up a new menu for her bosses’ new endeavour. Christensen is the guy that never left the neighborhood and everyone knows his name. Also, strangely, despite his dead eyes suggesting “anywhere else but here” he is irresistible to women. This is despite Christensen’s character being a charisma vacuum. Beginning with grating narration from both the leads, the kind which suggests that shoving the both of them into a cramped sound booth would be the best way of coaxing cheap chemistry out of them, Little Italy does little to inspire laughs while the only sighs it achieves are only of frustration.
“Ugh, that’s such a stereotype” Roberts retorts towards one of Christensen beige gags early on, before the film decides to bludgeon the audience with stereotype upon stereotype. So many that the National Italian American Foundation would hold a right to query. An Indian worker in one of the now divided pizza places is labelled “Jai Ho Slumdog” for a gag. His character has no motivations or resolutions within the movie.
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“But you’re taking the film too seriously!” Someone may cry. This is a film which uses the old oregano as weed joke, while not understanding the effects of weed. Hint: It’s not a stimulant. The gag itself is shabby, but the sheer fact that it doesn’t even grasp the joke itself is annoying. It’s a film that doesn’t take its jokes seriously enough to be funny. But so much woolly-headed thinking is strewn across the movie with little regard. Needless characters come and go. The lead couple is left hung out to dry with nothing to show any real attraction towards each other. The plot itself is as dated as the film’s terrible white backgrounded, photoshopped posters and there’s nothing that the film’s creators do to make it stand out.
The most fascinating aspect isn’t the fact the cast (which includes Alyssa Milano and Danny Aiello) signed up for the film. Bills have to be paid. It’s that it’s director Donald Petrie has pedigree as a director tried and tested successful romantic features. Say what you will about the likes of Miss Congeniality, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days or Mystic Pizza – which of course featured Roberts’ Aunt Julia – they clearly had more going on under the cover than this.
Watch them instead.
Little Italy is available on digital download platforms from Monday.