The Austin Chronicle

Mambo Italiano

Rated R, 88 min. Directed by Émile Gaudreault. Starring Luke Kirby, Ginette Reno, Paul Sorvino, Claudia Ferri, Peter Miller, Mary Walsh, Tara Nicodemo.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Oct. 10, 2003

The marketers of Mambo Italiano would like us to believe that this gay romantic comedy will be the next My Big Fat Greek Wedding. But saying it repeatedly doesn’t make it so. Not nearly. In fact, the film that Mambo Italiano most resembles is 1997’s Kiss Me Guido, in which a gay man and a straight man become roommates (through an ad in The Village Voice), and all sorts of familial misunderstandings ensue. Or maybe the leering Norman … Is That You?, which questionably placed Redd Foxx on the front line of the gay revolution in 1976. In Mambo Italiano, two men of Italian heritage move in together, but their happy sexual relationship comes to a halt when one wants to come out and the other wants to stay in the closet. Their subterfuge and admissions ignite all sorts of voluble yelling and hand-waving among the various family members. Italian mannerisms and speech inflections are presented most stereotypically, the most grievous offender being Paul Sorvino, who essays the family patriarch. Filmed in Montreal, Mambo Italiano has some nice moments in the beginning as Angelo (Kirby) describes his childhood and his parents’ immigration history. But the film quickly devolves into tired clichés and jokes. Director Gaudreault’s plodding camerawork and pacing are little more than rudimentary, so none of the film’s humor receives any extra goosing from its handlers, and the actors seem to take that as a sign to play their characters even more broadly than they might have otherwise. Mambo Italiano is disappointing flop that is best left off your dance card.

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