|FRIENDS AND ROMANS (director/writer: Christopher Kublan; screenwriters: Gregg Greenberg/Michael Rispoli; cinematographer: Austin F. Schmidt; editor:David Leonard; music: Aaron Mirman; cast: Michael Rispoli (Nick DeMaio), Annabella Sciorra (Angela DeMaio), Paul Ben-Victor (Dennis Socio), Katie Stevens (Gina DeMaio), Tony Darrow (Frankie Fusso), Anthony DeSando (Joey 'Bananas' Bongano), Tony Sirico (Bobby Musso), Charlie Semine (Paulie / Goldberg), Christopher Kublan (Joey Two Chins), Zandi Holup (Stacy Seidman) Joe D'Onofrio (Big Vinnie), Patrick Kerr (Mr. Rothman), John Bianco (Mikey Brigandi ); Runtime: 88; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Michael Mailer; Freestyle Media (Paladin release); 2014)|
by Dennis Schwartz
Christopher Kublan ("Giving It Up")
helms and writes this genial but leaden comedy. It
tells of how Italian-Americans are pigeon-holed into
playing gangster roles for TV and movies, and how a
group of such close friends try to break the
stereotype by putting on Shakespeare's Julius Caesar.
Other writers in this farce include Gregg Greenberg
and the film's star Michael Rispoli. He's best known
for appearing in The Sopranos
Rispoli plays an amiable 51-year-old Staten
Island truck driver family man, named Nick DeMaio. He
has aspirations to be an actor, and has earned extra
money moonlighting in non-speaking commercials
typecast as a gangster.
flubbing an audition for Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz
and Guildenstern Are Dead, Nick prompts his
best wise-guy pal Denny (Paul Ben-Victor)
to direct an amateur theater Shakespeare play
with a bunch of their Italian-American extra pals. The
sub-plot has a newly crowned mob boss, Joey
"Bananas" Bongano (Anthony DeSando), hiding in
the theater's basement because he's wanted by the feds
for killing a Broadway producer. The FBI places one of
their agents (Charlie Semine) into the play as
an amateur actor. But he doesn't realize that the
wanted mob chief is playing Brutus.
Sciorra plays Nick's loyal wife Angela, who is
another Sopranos alum. In the family subplot, their
high school daughter (Katie Stevens)
wants desperately to be in the school's rendition of
Guys and Dolls, directed by the effete Shakespeare
lover Mr. Rothman (Patrick Kerr). She
gets the part only because the foppish drama teacher
thinks her dad is in the mafia.
The unfunny comedy spends its time exasperatingly trying to come up with ways to exploit the Italian-American ethnic situation. It gratingly continues in this exploitation vein, desperately searching for laughs and to justify its fatuous story. What it does best is appeal to the viewer's sentimentality for Italian-American gangster movies and their appetite for cannoli.
REVIEWED ON 3/19/2016 GRADE: C
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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