Friday, August 24, 2018

Little Italy: Movie Review

Clichéd romantic comedy about family rivalry.
I’ve heard Little Italy most often being described as lazy, but I don’t think that’s entirely fair. Is it lazy to hire Emma Roberts, niece of Julia Roberts, in a movie which borrows from Mystic Pizza both on the surface and in its design? No, it’s more luck that the filmmakers were able to get a capable and known actress for their little movie about pizza. That’s what this movie was originally - a celebration of pizza and the unique cultural cross-section of Toronto’s Little Italy. 2018

Directed by: Donald Petrie

Screenplay by: Steve Galluccio, Vinay Virmani

Starring: Emma Roberts, Hayden Christensen

What the movie became is a terribly-clichéd romantic comedy about family rivalry and what looks like really bad pizza, but with a cute little cultural cross-section of Toronto’s Little Italy.

Two Italian families used to run a pizza shop together; one had perfect sauce the other had perfect dough (although I’m not entirely convinced that they know how to cook the dough since most of the pizzas looked undercooked with a pile of sauce on top with the occasional random topping – I’m not surprised at all that their sales have suffered). But I digress. A pizza competition has since turned the families into bitter rivals, each with their own competing pizza shop both running themselves out of business.

The fathers are loud and angry, the wives are loud and supportive, luckily their son and daughter, Leo (Hayden Christensen) and Nikki (Emma Roberts) aren’t as loud but they are annoyingly competitive. There’s a lot of screaming in the movie which can be very exhausting. One small thing that I did like about Nikki is that she has always liked Leo and is open about it. There’s very little pretending or faking of feelings or lack thereof. Nikki is honest about liking Leo, Leo seems honestly conflicted about his feelings for Nikki.

Emma Roberts, Hayden Christensen and Andrew Phung in Entertainment One's release, LITTLE ITALY.
The two main couples, Nikki and Leo, and grandparents Carlo and Franca, are both reasonably cute. The family rivalry is supposed to be provide the comedy, but it’s too loud and annoying to be funny and most of the romantic comedy plot points are so over-done that it just fails to be interesting. However, there is one character which I really appreciated – Luigi (Andrew Phung). He’s a Chinese bartender in Little Italy; he doesn’t have a lot of lines but all of his jokes are funny and he’s a very sympathetic character. He has a very touching scene describing how he came to Little Italy and adopted the name Luigi. His scenes before are funny, but his scenes after are even funnier since he’s that much more rounded of a character.

The pizzas get better once Leo shows his father how to make good pizzas, but that really should be a side point. After Little Italy, I decided I should support a small, family-owned, local pizzeria with a slice after the movie, and then I couldn’t find one. Maybe there is a nice little story about love and pizza in Little Italy but it’s covered up with a lot of yelling and creatively-dull romance.