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Review: ‘Little Italy’ is Clichéd, but Not Without Its Moments

August 23, 2018Sherry Li

A rom-com with an all-too-familiar storyline and cheesy tropes, director Donald Petrie's Little Italy isn't for everyone. However, for those who enjoy the genre, this just may satisfying a craving.

The film stars Emma Roberts and Hayden Christensen as Nikki and Leo, who end up falling for each other despite belonging to two different families that have been feuding in Toronto's Little Italy for years. Once business partners, the Campos and the Angiolis ran an incredibly successful pizzeria, even winning best pizza at the annual Taste of Little Italy festival. But since then, they've had a falling-out, driving Nikki to pursue culinary school in London and leaving the two families to run competing pizzerias next door to each other.

The movie picks up right when Nikki returns to Toronto to change her visa after being offered a position at a restaurant in Mayfair. She quickly runs into Leo and it becomes very apparent that the friendship that they once had — not to mention the chemistry between them — is still very much alive. The film also features a fun supporting cast that includes Alyssa Milano, Danny Aiello, Andrea Martin, Gary Basaraba and Adam Ferrara as the rest of their family members.

However, the storyline isn't anything new to fans of rom-coms, and the writing isn't that much better. Steve Galluccio and Vinay Virmani's script is filled with oft-used tropes and unoriginal dialogue, like one scene where Nikki equates her culinary instructor and boss, Corinne (Jane Seymour), to a female Gordon Ramsay, after which Corinne proceeds to speak lines that fans of the master chef will recognize as having actually come from his mouth. There is even an airport scene, where Nikki attempts to fly back to London without telling anyone, and as per the genre norms, Leo chases after her.

There is also a somewhat problematic scene, when a prank ends with Leo getting arrested, and the female police officer pats him down, complimenting his body and touching him inappropriately. This scene is understandably meant to be funny, but instead it comes off as incredibly uncomfortable and seems in poor taste in today's climate. Little Italy definitely feels like a movie that should have been made in — and, indeed, would have been perfect for — the late '90s or early 2000s, when clichéd, fun films like this thrived.

That said, while the plot is pretty standard and the writing can be a little cheesy, there are a few genuinely fun moments (the banter between the two Indian employees of the rival pizza shops provide for some great disses, for example). Little Italy still has charm, and while it may not be the romantic comedy of the year, it certainly hits the spot for moviegoers simply looking for something to tide them over.

Little Italy releases August 24th, 2018 from eOne Films. The film has an MPAA rating of R for some sexual references. Its runtime is 1 hr. 42 min.

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