The movie Little Italy is so cheesy that you could get heartburn.
That’s the overall verdict for this nondescript Canadian production that’s crept into town aimed at the romantic at heart. It’s awash in saccharine sweetness with a distinctly ’80s feel from director Donald Petrie and his overzealous cast.
Pretty Emma Roberts and handsome Hayden Christensen are the two heartthrob leads in this little tale about food (especially the pizza variety), warring families and love.
Emma plays an aspiring chef named Nikki who returns from London to her Toronto neighbourhood where she is known and loved by everyone. She has to wait for her work visa to come through before she can accept a new job in the UK, where Jane Seymour puts in a cameo appearance as a snobbish London restaurateur.
Almost immediately, she runs into childhood friend Leo (Christensen), from whom she’s been estranged since their parents opened rival pizza restaurants and the two families engaged in a culinary war.
It’s only a matter of time before they discover they were made for each other, complete with all the trimmings, and for the rest of the movie we are left buying into the mushy narrative.
Roberts and Christensen deserve far better scripts than this lazily conceived, utterly predictable plot in which their entities become little more than pale caricatures.
The whole feature seems to be stuck in the ’80s, complete with soggy dialogue and contrived set pieces. Petrie is adept at fashioning tolerable Hollywood romcoms and his work has included Miss Congeniality, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and Mystic Pizza, which featured Emma’s aunt, Julia.
Petrie and his Canadian screenwriters, Steve Galluccio and Vinay Virmani, seem content to reheat old plot lines, while deploying racial stereotypes.
There’s one overweight, gay Asian fellow named Luigi who runs a restaurant. One day he is rudely reminded that he’s definitely not of Italian origin.
Misused talents include Danny Aiello, playing a kindly Italian grandfather who finds new love, Alyssa Milano as Nikki’s adoring mother and Andrea Martin, who manages to transport her Big Fat Greek Wedding shtick from Athens to Little Italy.
It has a few fun moments but, overall, Little Italy is more a collection of shoddily assembled romantic-driven cliches than an inspiringly creative slice of cinema.
Cast: Emma Roberts, Hayden Christensen, Andrea Martin, Danny Alyssa, Alicia Milano
Director: Donald Petrie