Like a big pizza pie

A big fat gay twist on the ethnic comedy

Hoping that lightening strikes twice, the distributor behind the mega-hit My Big Fat Greek Wedding wants to tempt us with a new set of ethnic stereotypes – and a big gay twist – in the comedy Mambo Italiano.

First the good news. The film is not nearly as bad at the ham-fisted stage play on which it’s based. The bad news? That’s not saying much.

Set in Montreal’s Little Italy, and co-written by Steve Gallucio (author of the play) and director Emile Gaudreault, Mambo Italiano introduces us to the Barberini clan: grumbling papa Gino (Paul Sorvino), worried mama Maria (Quebec star Ginette Reno), neurotic sister Anna (Claudia Ferri) and our narrator, Angelo (Luke Kirby), closeted son and aspiring sitcom writer (a character trait that says much about the film).

Angelo reacquaints himself with high school friend Nino (Peter Miller), a hunky gay cop (someone’s been watching too much porn) who’s also happily closeted. Perfecto! They move in together.

Various family members, including Nino’s battleaxe mother (Mary Walsh, sounding more Russian Mafia than Sicilian widow), conspire to set the boys on the path of hetero happiness. Nino wavers about his sexuality, moves back home and starts dating the overly-confident Pina (Sophie Lorain), who claims an hour is all she’d need to turn to the gay village straight (not with that hair, sister).

Angelo, meanwhile, pines, vents his anger towards his parents (in a mean-spirited scene that will surely test audience sympathies) and tries to figure out what this “being gay” thing is all about.

Well-acted by a cast of pros (although, as the besieged lovers, Kirby and Miller have minimal chemistry), the breezy pace and kitschy design sets up the film as an enjoyable, lighthearted romp that’s reminiscent of the French hit film Amelie.

But there’s a nasty streak running through Mambo Italiano, evident when Angelo volunteers at a gay crisis line and mocks the callers.

This is a gay movie that really isn’t made for gay people. Already a huge hit in Quebec, and soon to be released on hundreds of screens in North America, this is a film for folks who like their Italians loud, their gay people lobotomized and the status quo unchallenged. Basta, already.

* Mambo Italiano gets a gala screening at 6:30pm on Sat, Sep 6 at Roy Thomson Hall and a regular screening at 9:30am on Sun, Sep 7 at the Uptown.

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TV & Film, Culture, Toronto, Arts

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