Set in Toronto, Donald Petrie‘s Little Italy is a millennial’s Romeo and Juliet (without the tragic end, tho).
Two households, both alike in making pizza. In fair Toronto’s Little Italy, where we lay our scene,…
In this case the two families are the Campo one and the Angioli one. Sal (Salvatore?) and Vince (Vincenzo?) not only are the best pizzaioli in Toronto; but they are also bond by a very deep and strong friendship. They own the pizzeria Bella Napoli with their wives Dora and Amalia; Sal’s mother Franca with her extraordinary tomato sauce and Vince’s father Carlo, “the don of dough”. Their kids Nicoletta (Nikki) aka Emma Roberts and Leo aka Hayden Christensen are thick as thieves. The day Sal and Vince win the best pizza contest, a mystery feud spoils their partnership and friendship; they open two pizzerie directly neighbouring, Nikki leaves for London to learn how to be a four Michelin-star chef from Chef Corinne (Jane Seymour) and Franca and Carlo start to have secret rendezvous at the church in a first moment and when caught by the priest, at Starbucks. When Nikki comes back to change her student visa in a worker one, the two childhood chumps find their connection again … ’cause, as grandpa says to Leo, “You can take the girl outta Little Italy; but you can’t take Little Italy outta the girl.”
Little Italy is a romantic comedy; maybe too cheesy but a little bit of cheese never killed anyone. The story is enjoyable as are the different storylines. Who cares if it’s similar to a mid-eighties romantic comedy, some things never change, exactly as happens in Toronto’s Little Italy… actually some are more real these days than back then; for example a character like Nikki who crosses the sea and builds a new life in a foreign country far from her loved ones. And who cares if Leo‘s roof garden is more a bush than a real garden, or if Little Italy is not Little Italy, or if no one smells that the origano is not origano… it’s a story about love and distance and pizza and what being Italian is about: tradition, passion and pride… and obviously football… a scene that could seems unreal to Americans as much as it’s real for Italians… Yes, we would take it outside, under pouring rain, barefoot if in heels as Nikki does; sorry for you if you can’t stand it.
We said: tradition, passion and pride…and that’s what’s hard to swallow about this movie. Vinay Virmani and Steve Galluccio screenplay is so very far from this mantra: full of random Italian interjections in place of punchlines and full of clichés. The characters are absolutely not believable as southern Italians when they interact; it’s not about their heritage (Danny Aiello who plays grandpa Carlo, Adam Ferrara who plays Nikki’s father Sal and Alissa Milano who plays Nikki’s mother Dora are Italian-American; Cristina Rosato who plays Nikki’s best friend Gina is Italian and Hayden Christensen who plays Leo is Italian for 1/3rd by mother and he delivered pizze to prepare for the part); but it’s about the way they acts and especially their over-the-top stereotypical accent. Last but not least: none of the pizza looks like an Italian good pizza: they are all too crusty and so…American!!… and in a pizza-based movie it’s just unforgivable.
Mateo Messina‘s score is perfect but the movie reaches his greatest moment when Leo takes Nikki to the Little Italy’s Festival to “show her what she’s missing” as grandpa told him to do. Their bikes as kids are now a very Italian Vespa and they stroll around the market buying funny t-shirts with Italian jokes on it and Italian food, playing the same pranks they were used to play as kids. In the background, Shawn Mendes “There’s nothing holdin’ me back”.
So, now, take your pizza from the oven, pour yourself a glass of fine red wine and press play to watch a sweet romantic comedy… luckily those violent delights don’t have violent ends this time.
“Life may take you to distant places but it’s love that brings you home. We may not have it all together but together we have it all.”