Everybody Wants To Be Italian

2008, Movie, R, 104 mins

Review

EVERYBODY WANTS TO BE ITALIAN
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Or more accurately, "Everybody Wants to be an Italian Stereotype:" Writer-director Jason Todd Ipson's romantic comedy is so awash in tired ethnic clichés that the story drowns.

Jake Bianski (Jay Jablonski) owns and operates his late parents' North Boston fish store, though he delegates most of the day-to-day work to longtime employees Steve Bottino (John Kapelos) and Gianluca Tempesti (John Enos III). Steve and Gianluca, both married, worry about Jake's conviction that one day he'll win back his ex-girlfriend Isabella (Marisa Petroro), even though she dumped him eight years ago (because she caught him in bed with her sister and her best friend), is married to Mario (P.J. Marino) and has three children. They're always on the lookout for a nice girl for Jake, and Steve thinks he's found one in Marisa Costa (Cerina Vincent), a comely veterinarian he takes to be Italian, though she in fact isn't. Steve and Gianluca arrange for Jake and Marisa to meet, but Steve warns Jake that he'll have to pretend he's Italian too if he wants to get anywhere. Italian girls, he counsels, only go for Italian men. And so the complications begin: Marisa and Jake hit it off, but he tells her he already has a girlfriend, which – understandably – cools her ardor. They decide to be friends, which doesn't work so well once Marisa begins dating someone else, and then Isabella comes back, kids in tow. Mamma mia, it's a bigga mess!

The film attempts to wring laughs from the notions that Italian men are crude, philandering, Mob connected and given to malapropisms, and that Italian women are fiery earth mothers who expect infidelity, seduce with food and just want to make-a da bambinos. The fact that Steve is taking night classes in psychology so he can become a therapist is presumed to be hilarious – though that might be a class stereotype, rather than an ethnic one – and Ipson adds a little anti-intellectualism for good measure. And on top of all that, Jake is a thoroughly unlikable character: He's smug, condescending, believes he can't be blamed for that calamitous three-way (which was in her parents' bed, by the way) and, frankly, delusional on the subject of Isabella. Since none of this is funny, you have to wonder what veteran comic actress and director Penny Marshall was thinking when she agreed to take a two-scene cameo part as a florist. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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