LITTLE ITALY: 1 STAR. “a movie that is all about love that is anything but loveable.”
“Little Italy,” a new rom com starring Hayden Christensen and Emma Roberts, is good hearted enough but feels like it arrived via a marinara sauce splattered time capsule from 1985.
Leo Campo (Christensen) and Nikki Angioli (Roberts) were inseparable while growing up in Toronto’s Little Italy. “To us Little Italy wasn’t just a few blocks, it was our whole world.” Their families were tight, working side by side at the Napoli Pizza Parlour until the Great Pizza War erupted, causing a split that saw the pizza place sliced down the middle, cleaved into two separate businesses. Years pass. “It’s Little Italy’s oldest food fight.” Nikki moves to England to study the culinary arts while Leo stays home, working with his father.
Five years later Nikki returns home to renew her English work visa and is drawn back into the world she thought she had left behind. My Nikki is coming home today,” says mother Dora (Alyssa Milano). “Now we have to find her a husband so she’ll stay.” Will there be amore? Will the moon hit her eye like a big pizza pie or will she return to her cooking career in London?
“Little Italy” is an “I’m not yelling I’m Italian” style rom com. Desperate to establish the flavour of Little Italy it parades stereotypes across the screen speaking in loud exaggerated Italian accents. It’s annoying but it is all played for laughs, tempered with the easy sentimentality of the most rote of rom coms.
Director Donald Petrie, whose “Mystic Pizza” made a superstar out of Roberts’s Aunt Julia, never finds the balance between the slapstick, romance and cliché. Sometimes it feels like sketch comedy, other times like every rom com you’ve ever seen. Either way, it never feels original or particularly likeable. Top it off with a been-there-done-that run to the airport climax that would likely get everyone involved, if this is anything like real life, arrested and you have a movie that is all about love that is anything but loveable.