Chooch

2004, Movie, NR, 81 mins

Review

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Unless you grew up in an Italian-American neighborhood like the one featured in this contrived but pleasant enough comedy, you might not know that "chooch" is slang for jackass, a likeable loser who can't help but screw up. Dino Condito (Carmine Famiglietti) is a perfect example. Growing up in the shadow of Shea Stadium in Queens, New York, Dino once dreamed of playing for the Mets. Now 28, Dino doesn't even have a steady job, he still lives with his parents, and Dino's best friends are a dachshund named Kiwi and his cousin, Jubielen (Joseph Summa), who lives with his girlfriend (Susan Ann Davis) in the same two-family house as the Conditos. The closest either Dino or "Jube" have gotten to the Mets' dugout are weekend games with their softball "crew" in Corona's Bocci Park. Nasty accusations of graft and bum plays, however, have split the team apart, and two months later, Dino is still in a deep funk and hitting the egg creams pretty hard. Hoping that change of scenery will do his cousin good, Jube withdraws all of his First Communion money and proposes the unthinkable: leaving Queens. When Jube tells Dino they can go anywhere in world he likes, Dino picks Mexico. So with much family fanfare, and over the protests of Dino's overbearing mother (Lucille Tomczyk) — "What's in Cancun that they can't find in Queens?" — Dino and Jube bid their families arrivederci and accidentally step into the limo ordered by their Mexican gangster neighbor, Billy Del Nino (Stefan Lysenko), the stretch with the special package in the trunk. The exchange is made at the airport without either Jube or Dino noticing that the limo driver has taken the package and slipped a lot of money into their luggage, and it's off to Mexico, where a pair of thugs are waiting to greet them at the baggage carousel. Tasered and hog-tied, Dino and Jube still have no clue as to what's happening to them; they think the rough treatment is all part of the crappy vacation deal Dino found on the Internet. The only thing that can save them now is the old softball crew — if they can agree to let bygones be bygones. Famiglietti and Summa had a minor hit with "Ha Ya Doin,'" a novelty song that pokes fun at Italian-American culture. It shouldn't come as much of a surprise that a movie built around their characters should rely pretty heavily on ethnic stereotypes. Some are fairly innocuous, others are less so: Too many of the Mexicans Dino and Jube encounter south of the border are portrayed as tequila-swilling layabouts. One character even chokes to death on the worm. leave a comment --Ken Fox

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