Last year we had My Big Fat Greek Wedding, a stereotypical look at American Greeks and their foibles, and this year we have Mambo Italiano, a stereotypical look at Canadian Italians with the added flavour of a gay twist. Incidentally, both films are based on Canadian stage plays and of course My Big Fat Greek WeddingÂ benefited from being backed by Tom Hanks’s wife, scoring huge commercial success both here and in the US.
Mambo Italiano is a different story. It is based on a stage play by Steve Galluccio (no prizes for guessing his origins) who met thirty-something ?ile Gaudreault when they were Quebec TV sitcom writers on the 1998 series Histoire De Filles.
This is screenwriter-turned-director Gaudreault’s second feature. He made his debut in 2001 with the Canadian box-office comedy hit, Nuit De Noces (Wedding Night). That film was funny, not particularly original and garnered a Genie Award as a result of its commercial success in Canada. Gaudreault also wrote the screenplay for Louis 19, Le Roi Des Ondes which Ron Howard later re-made as EdTV.
The film plays like a TV sitcom minus the laughter track and is stuffed with all the usual ingredients: loud, overbearing mothers and fathers who gesticulate wildly, speak with heavy Italian accents and can’t cope; sisters who are neurotic; as well as heaps of overacting and mediocre performances.
On top of this we have a gay theme which is so sanitised I can’t imagine the main characters being friends, let alone lovers. Luke Kirby plays the wannabe screenwriter and Peter Miller, described in the production notes as a hunky ex-professional football player turned TV actor (Canada’s equivalent to Ian Roberts perhaps) plays the policeman friend/lover. He is hunky and well built to say the least, but is wooden and unbelievable in the role. To this mix are added veteran Hollywood actor Paul Sorvino, as well as a wide range of known and lesser-known Canadian stage and screen actors.
Mambo Italiano has lots of feel-good heart but not much else in what essentially is a simplistic comedy. The gay relationship, supposedly the soul of the film, is so innocuous it is beyond a trivialised derivative. The TV series Six Feet Under portrays a gay relationship better -“ at least there is sex and humour as well asÂ angst.