Like Little Italy’s pizza, the plot is as paper thin as its crust, stereotypes as over-the-top as the sauce, a charm as grating as the mozzarella, with a premise as old as the family’s recipe. As much as it tries, this is no My Big Fat Greek Italian Wedding.
Little Italy starts with flashbacks of Leo Campo and Nikki Angioli (played as adults by Hayden Christenson and Emma Roberts). They are the offspring of rival New York (style) pizzeria owners, who at one point owned their restaurant together. The scene is gloriously over the top, with stereotypical characters eating pizza in their restaurants, dough flying an inch from the ceiling, and love for family that can only be expressed with an Italian accent. After winning best pie, the families break up, over an issue they refuse to talk about. The longtime friendship that Leo and Nikki shared has turned into a crush that they never acted on, and has never gone away. Soon, Nikki must come back from culinary school in England, so she can fix an issue with her green card in Canada
Director Donald Petrie has a history of making critically below-average but crowd pleasing romantic comedies (How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Miss Congeniality) to even bordering on classic fare (his first film was directing Emma’s Aunt Julia in Mystic Pizza). Little Italy unfortunately falls to the bottom of the bin with such clunkers as Richie Rich. Films like this are made in mind as date movies that are inoffensive and safe choices to make with your money that get audiences to fill seats in the theatre. Little Italy is so stereotypical of cultures and sexual orientations, goes so out of its way to be different for the sake of being different, and oddly plays things safe when you think the script is going to try something new, it’s just bizarre. Following the formula is fine with these types of movies, so why deviate when there is nothing better than day-old Italian?
Despite the off mixture of dated filmmaking and odd script choices and character decisions (subplots are abandoned without explanation, even the main plot of what brought back Robert’s character in the first place, and does anyone think it is a good idea to play soccer in the middle of a thunderstorm with metal goals?) somehow Little Italy gathers an impressive supporting cast. The actors are bizarrely likeable the way you accept family members you may roll your eyes at but love just the same. I haven’t seen Danny Aiello in film in years, and his grey fox romance with veteran comic actress Andrea Martin was like a warm loaf of bread out of the oven. I’ll admit, Alissa Milano’s protective mother act was a nice piece of casting. The rest of the cast flounders with scenes that are so hard to watch you wonder what the editor was thinking when watching them back (spiking a recipe with marijuana in place of oregano is particularly off-putting and nearly unwatchable).
Like Little Italy’s pizza, the plot is as paper thin as its crust, stereotypes as over-the-top as the film’s robust sauce, a charm as grating as the mozzarella on top of their pies, with a premise as old as the family’s recipe. As much as it tries, this is no My Big Fat Greek Italian Wedding.
M.N. Miller has been a film and television writer for Ready Steady Cut since August of 2018 and is patiently waiting for the next Pearl Jam album to come out.