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Mambo Italiano
2003 - R - 88 Mins.
Director: Emile Gauldreault
Producer: Denise Robert, Daniel Louis
Written By: Steve Gallucio, Emile Gaudreault
Starring: Luke Kirby, Ginette Reno, Paul Sorvino, Claudia Ferri, Peter Miller
Review by: Greg Ursic
   
After "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" brought in $250 million US at the box office - something that still amazes me (while it was mildly amusing I thought "Bend It Like Beckham" was a far superior film on every level) the market seemed ripe for a surge in "ethnic" comedies. Surprisingly, the expected deluged never appeared. Is it possible that the studios have finally realized that quickly churned out copycat films are a disservice to the moviegoing public? Unlikely.- they're probably worried about rushing out a film that will offend cultural groups with glaring stereotypes Cowards!

Being the offspring of immigrants can be trying - parents often live within a cultural bubble, keeping the traditions as they remembered them, (no matter that things "back home" have continued to evolve since the day they left and no longer resemble their memories). So Angelo Barberini, a good Italian Canadian boy growing up in Montreal's Little Italy is expected to live with his parents until he meets that special Italian Canadian girl, get married, moves out and raises his own bumper crop of bambinos. . Unbeknownst to Angelo's parents, he'd rather meet the perfect Mario than Maria., or in this case, Nino the perfect Italian Canadian cop. Dio Mio.

Unlike MBFGW this film is going to be handicapped from the outset by the subject matter,: with the country currently split over the concept of same sex marriages, there are clearly many (especially within the largely Catholic Italian Canadian community) for whom homosexuality is an issue (and that's putting it mildly). This will undoubtedly affect the film's box office, which is unfortunate as Mambo Italiano (which was initially written as a play) is much more than a one dimensional slapstick comedy: the film touches on serious issues, including outing, family dynamics, and acceptance. There are also several performances worth noting.

Paul Sorvino and Ginette Reno are brilliantly cast as Angelo's dysfunctional parents, always arguing and ready to dole out a slap when necessary. The duo play off one another so well that you'd almost think they were married (the scene involving the wedding invitation is a prime example - it is a masterpiece of subtlety and timing). Cluaudia Ferri is hilarious as the off kilter Anna, Angela's pill popping doe-eyed manic sister - with no immediate marriage prospects she is doomed to spend her life under her parents' roof and is terrified by the prospect. Peter Miller also double duty as Nino the good looking beefcake cop and the source of Angelo's affection. The film ultimately hinges on Angelo - given the character's multidimensional personality, just being funny won't suffice. Luke Kirby delivers with a character that that is humorous, emotional without being melodramatic (unless the situation demands it) and most importantly not a simple stock "gay" character. I do have some reservations about the film however.

On occasion the transition between the dramatic and humorous elements of the film tend towards the extreme i.e. there are few substantive linking elements. In addition the humor can be a little over the top - the whole "Whose banging who" scene felt like an Abbot and Costello skit gone horribly awry. Finally, Mary Walsh's performance drove me to distraction - while she does some great accents, Italian isn't one of them, and I cringed whenever she spoke.

Mambo Italiano is a clever romantic comedy that also touches on serious issues without getting bogged down in the process. It is both entertaining and enjoyable and hopefully will get the exposure it deserves.
 
Movie Guru Rating
Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental.
  3.5 out of 5 stars

 
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