LIONSGATE (2018)

 

Director: Donald Petrie

 

Starring: Emma Roberts, Hayden Christensen, Alyssa Milano, Adam Ferrara, Gary Basaraba, Linda Kash, Andrew Phung, Cristina Rosato, Danny Aiello, Andrea Martin

Pizza. Just give me all the pizza.

 

Donald Petrie certainly enjoys a slice or two - having previously (well...in 1988) directed Mystic Pizza he now delivers Little Italy, a romantic comedy set in the Little Italy district in Toronto. Petrie has plenty of previous in the genre, having helmed Grumpy Old Men, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and My Life in Ruins to name a few, so the pedigree was there and this is another decent addition to his filmography.

 

Also, Nancy Drew and Anakin Skywalker. Win.

When aspiring chef Nikki (Roberts) returns home to Little Italy from her job in London to obtain a working visa, it’s supposed to be a whistle-stop visit. When she bumps into her childhood best friend and crush Leo (Christensen), things get complicated as old feelings re-emerge. On top of that, a feud between former best friends and rival pizza shop owners Sal (Ferrara) and Vince (Basaraba) looms large – the fact they are Nikki and Leo’s fathers makes things worse. Pizza wars ensue, forbidden love (and not just between the youngsters) blooms and enough laughs to top a super-sized Italian delicacy.

 

As a romantic comedy, Little Italy borrows and steals from everything that came before it, every cliché and convention you can think of is weaved in at some point – but, I found myself thinking “how many other rom-coms follow the same trend?”, and the answer is nearly all of them. So, I watched the movie with this in mind and took it for what it was – a fun, sweet rom-com that hit when it needed to, despite evident flaws.

 

The lead duo of Emma Roberts and Hayden Christensen thankfully have very good chemistry and deliver a believable courtship. Roberts I believe is destined for a really bright future, and she’s just fine here, similarly with Christensen who feels more natural in a role like this (Darth has a laugh). The seasoned Danny Aiello and Andrea Martin deliver on the movies sweet subplot and are afforded the best lines too.

 

Narratively, you can probably surmise what is going to happen before the opening credits roll, and you’ll see every plot point coming long before it happens so if it’s originality you’re after, you won’t find it here – it’s not quite the modern Romeo & Juliet (despite a verbal nod) . Some of the dialogue the cast are fed is a bit lacking, but the majority is just fine and the bulk of the laughs hit when they need to. What the movie does do well is presentation – it looks great and the Little Italy area looks like a fun place to visit.

 

If you aren’t a fan of rom-coms, you won’t like this, simple as that. If you’re going to get hung up on a lack of originality, you’ll be frustrated here. It may be cheesier than the delightful array of pizzas that seduced my eyes throughout, but Little Italy gave me a surprisingly good time – feel good and fun, that’s all I needed.

 

Also, figs or pineapple on pizza – you can only choose one...?

September 23rd 2018

© 2016 Matt Hudson / What I Watched Tonight / Essex

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