Sony // 2003 // 89 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Bill Treadway (Retired) // March 25th, 2004
Times change. Family doesn't.
Angelo (Luke Kirby) has problems. He's gay, and doesn't know how to tell his full-blooded Italian parents Gino (Paul Sorvino, Goodfellas, That Championship Season) and Maria (Ginette Reno). Angelo's dream of becoming a television writer hasn't exactly panned out as he planned. He's also in love with his childhood friend Nino, who is still in the closet. When Angelo's parents find out the truth about their son's orientation, to say they don't take it well would be an understatement. Another problem arises when Nino's mother Lina (Mary Walsh) schemes with Angelo's parents to "straighten" the boys out.
Mambo Italiano is a combination of farce and screwball comedy, two genres we do not see a lot these days. Some critics have referred to this film as My Big Fat Gay Wedding, but that is misleading. Mambo Italiano bears little resemblance to the popular My Big Fat Greek Wedding, except that both films are a throwback to an old-fashioned style of screen comedy, only with a modern edge.
But rest assured, Mambo Italiano is a very funny comedy, hampered only by a few slow spots that allow syrupy sentiment to creep in. If the film seems to be set-bound, it's due to the fact that the script was based on a stage play. The picture follows the formula established by Roger Corman in his comedy classic The Little Shop of Horrors. Like Corman, director Emile Gaudreault breaks away from the sets long enough to keep things from becoming dull.
The performances are better than you'd expect. Paul Sorvino is the biggest "name" in the cast. Sorvino has made a career out of playing flawed men of power, but he also has an apt comic persona that occasionally surfaces. He contributes many of the film's funniest moments, especially when his mysterious stomach pains surface without warning. But he does this shtick without stereotype, which is why it works so well. The entire cast -- especially Kirby and Miller -- excels in this regard, which helps sell the material. It was refreshing to see a film with gay characters being treated as normal human beings rather than as crude, cardboard, stereotypical people.
Columbia's DVD treatment of Mambo Italiano is decent but unspectacular. The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is a mixed bag. There is far more grain than I would like to see in a 2003 release. While it is never heavy, it is still easily noticed, even for those of you with smaller TV screens. The colors look sharp and bold, appropriate for this sort of ribald comedy. The good news is that with the exception of one brief scene, edge enhancement is not an issue.
Audio is in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround stereo. It sounds good, but some dialogue is mixed far too loudly for my taste. Considering this film is not heavy on music or sound effects, a simpler mono mix might have been more effective. In other words, be prepared to adjust your sound system accordingly.
The Region 2 release of the film featured a making-of featurette and some deleted scenes. None of those extras appear on this Region 1 release -- not even the film's theatrical trailer is included here. Columbia, staying true to form, has provided trailers for other theatrical releases, notably for two awful comedies (The Animal, Stark Raving Mad), an exceptional drama (I Capture the Castle), a comedy classic (Stripes), and a film completely unfamiliar to me (The New Guy).
I'd have to pass on recommending a purchase. Mambo Italiano is a bit too slight a film to justify spending $26.98. But if you're stuck on a rental idea, it's more than satisfying and easily worth four or five bucks. It will leave you with a smile on your face and some pain in your gut from laughing so hard.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 89 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Bonus Trailers