Mambo Italiano: The Glorious Devolution

Learning to love formula filmmaking for now, at least.

PROFESSORS TRACE much of modern history to the concept of the "revolution of rising expectations." People don't revolt when they're ground too far down; it takes hope to billow the sails of change. In film, we're engulfed by the opposite: a revolutionary plunge in our expectations for the movies that becalms us in the stagnant waters of Nothing New. The merest gust of personality, originality, or soul gets welcomed like the Second Coming of the '70sespecially if a Coppola is involved. Hence, Mambo Italiano (which opens Friday, Oct. 3, at the Metro) arrives like a welcome platter of hammy prosciutto that goes well with recent Greek and Hindi dishes. In Montreal's wee Little Italy, Angelo (Luke Kirby) unthinkably moves out of the home of his bicker-cute folks (Paul Sorvino and Ginette Reno) and over-psychoanalyzed sister. Mamma mia, he's only 27! And there's no girl involvedjust his childhood chum Nino (Peter Miller), a cop whose gym-engorged physique and manner screams "I AM GAY" to anyone not screaming "I AM ITALIAN" with their Old World fingers crammed into their ears as unremovably as Chinese fingercuffs. Will Angelo come out to his parents, refuse to follow in the suicidal footsteps of his Mame-like Aunt Yolanda, and quit his farcically unfulfilling travel-agency job to write a hit sitcom about his querulous clan? Will Peter come out to his homophobe cop pals? Will Angelo or Peter fall for the big-haired puta type both their parents try to fix them up with? Although no narrative surprises ensue (the Big Fat Greek demo would riot if they did), what's startling here is how tasty formula filmmaking can be. Kirby has some (not all) of the guileless charm of the young Tom Hanks, plus cheeks like a pouty chipmunk. Miller makes a nice foil, and their gay characters are more fully humanwithin the movie's cardboard-cutout contextthan their straight counterparts, a refreshing reversal from most popular comedies. Outrageous as they are, Sorvino and Reno are a big, fat, sloppy hug one can't bear to wriggle out of. Despite a near-zero budget, Mambo boasts sharp, cartoony design (vaguely like To Die For, but affirmative, not satiric) and a sitcom snap most sitcoms can't manage. Few, if any, films in our current post-Labor Day slump are as satisfying. Help! I've joined the revolution. tappelo@seattleweekly.com

 
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