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Mambo Italiano

Everyone who thought that My Big Fat Greek Wedding went a little easy on the ethnic stereotyping is going to love Mambo Italiano (2003). Packed full of over-the-top characters who are so Italian that even the ones born in Canada have Italian accents, Mambo has it all — traditional papas, rotund mamas in big black dresses, sisters with bigger hair, accordion music, and smacks to the head for all. The central character is Angelo (Luke Kirby), a hip, sensitive twentysomething who throws his family into turmoil when he decides to move out on his own. Dad Gino (Paul Sorvino, doing time as this little film's one "name" actor) and Mom Maria (Ginette Reno) just can't believe he'd want to leave the nest before finding a nice girl to settle down with. Of course, that's before Angelo tells them he's gay, and that his new "roommate," hunky cop/childhood friend Nino (Peter Miller), is more than just someone to share the bills with. When the truth finally does come out (no pun intended), all hell breaks loose, and Angelo discovers that his domestic bliss may be less assured than he'd thought, thanks to Nino's reluctance to embrace the gay lifestyle. Toss in Nino's brassy, manipulative mother Lina (Mary Walsh), man-hungry bachelorette Pina (Sophie Lorain), and Angelo's therapy-addicted older sister Anna (Claudia Ferri), and comic mayhem should presumably ensue. Unfortunately, it doesn't; the plot "twists" are as transparent as Pina's designs on Nino, and all the Italian jokes have been done before. In the cast, Sorvino makes the most of a character he could play in his sleep, Kirby is appealing enough, and Ferri mines Anna's emotional instability for a few laughs. But Miller obviously was hired for his looks instead of his acting chops, and Walsh seems to have graduated from the Raquel Welch School of Overplaying Feisty Middle-Aged Ethnic Women. A few authentic moments sneak their way into the movie (Angelo's interactions with a smitten helpline volunteer, for example), but ultimately Mambo Italiano is as stale as yesterday's pasta. Columbia TriStar's bare-bones DVD — the only "extra" is a handful of trailers — offers the film in a clean anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) that shows off production designer Patricia Christie's colorful set design. The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is more than adequate; English subtitles are also available. Keep-case.
—Betsy Bozdech

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