Somewhere in Queens

Somewhere in Queens

2023, R, 106 min. Directed by Ray Romano. Starring Ray Romano, Laurie Metcalf, Jacob Ward, Sadie Stanley, Tony Lo Bianco, Sebastian Maniscalco, Jennifer Esposito, James Ciccone, Jon Manfrellotti.

REVIEWED By Josh Kupecki, Fri., April 21, 2023

As nondescript movie titles go, Somewhere in Queens is a good one, being both unmemorable and uninformative. Things become clearer upon realizing that this is the directorial debut of sitcom royalty Ray Romano, who wrote it with Scrubs veteran Mark Stegemann. But even if that doesn’t clue you in on the manner of entertainment offered up for consumption, there’s the solid one-two punch of Louis Prima and Jim Croce for the opening music medley that removes any lingering ambiguity. So when “Buona Sera” segues into “I Got a Name,” all systems are go for an Italian-themed, follow-your-dreams heart-warmer (minus the laugh track).

So, somewhere in an Italian American, middle-class neighborhood in Queens, Leo (Romano) works at his father’s small construction company, forever the second fiddle to his brother (and foreman) Frank (Maniscalco). Leo might not be the smartest guy around, but he’s got heart, quotes the Rocky movies when doling advice, and loves his family. The classic everyman Leo is, alternatively buoyed and harangued by his wife Angela (Metcalf, another sitcom noble), and living vicariously through his son, 18-year-old Matthew (Ward), who goes by the nickname “Sticks,” although not because he’s a good jazz drummer, which is what I was initially hoping for. It’s because he’s tall. And he plays basketball.

So on top of the cliched Italian American family dynamics – profanity and slaps on the head as modes of expression, humor based on the eternal overabundance of food, operatic displays of emotion, garish interior design – on top of that is the actual plot of Somewhere in Queens, which is that Sticks is so good at high school basketball, he gets the chance to try out for a scholarship at a small Philadelphia college. Sticks is so good at basketball because he suffers from acute anxiety, and when Leo introduced him to basketball at a young age, Sticks was all focus, no panic. So Sticks and Leo have this basketball thing, but more and more, it’s looking mainly like it's Leo, who has gone to every practice and game his son has participated in, because cheaper than therapy and no stigma probably. But there’s a problem, and here’s where the real actual plot of Queens kicks in. Sticks has a girlfriend, Danielle (Stanley), a kindly, free-spirit type who breaks it off with Sticks before his college tryout. Heartbroken Sticks wants nothing to do with college tryouts, so Leo convinces Danielle to remain his girlfriend until after the basketball tryouts.

Leo’s plan works until it invariably doesn’t, and the whole thing gets exposed with nearly every cast member present for the full dramatic effect. In the interest of giving Metcalf something to do, Angela is five years on the other side of a battle with breast cancer, but still terrified of its return, her stress and fear downplayed by her husband. Romano’s not afraid to play Leo as a selfish prick, but he’s an oblivious selfish prick, so with self-awareness comes redemption. And with redemption come reflections on the lessons learned. Competent and unassuming, mildly problematic but ultimately harmless, Somewhere in Queens is alloyed family sitcom nostalgia sourced from stronger materials.

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Somewhere in Queens, Ray Romano, Ray Romano, Laurie Metcalf, Jacob Ward, Sadie Stanley, Tony Lo Bianco, Sebastian Maniscalco, Jennifer Esposito, James Ciccone, Jon Manfrellotti

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