Mambo Italiano serves up Montreal’s Little Italy, its inhabitants and the comic tribulations of Angelo Barberini (Luke Kirby), a gay, second-generation Italian-Canadian, with all the noodling around that’s expected in a romantic comedy.

“I am so fucked,” Angelo moans through his phone to a patient listener at the Gay Helpline. He blurts out his story while director Émille Gaudreault (who scripted Louis 19, le roi des ondes on which EDtv was based) illustrates it as an expressionistic comic book, much like a B-movie version of Amélie.

Angelo’s father, Gino (Paul Sorvino), and mother, Maria (Ginette Reno), arrived in Montreal by a comedy of errors. As Gino tells it, the couple was headed for America, but ended up in the “fake” America, aka Canada.

As the luck of these Italians would have it, they didn’t even end up in the “real” Canada — Ontario — but instead the “fake” one — Quebec. Angelo was conceived when his father took advantage of his slumbering mother. Not an auspicious start.

At least there was Nino Paventi (Peter Miller), Angelo’s childhood friend and partner in pranks. While Angelo found his own droll hell in high school, Nino, the boy who would be prom king, couldn’t take the heat of hanging out with the class “fag.”

Nearly a decade later, the boys have become men and accidentally meet again. Soon, Angelo can have his beefcake and eat it too: the two become “roommates” and their apartment becomes a nice and comfy closet for two.

As a rule, the plot lines of romantic comedies are tensed by stumbling blocks to true love. Here, the impediment is “coming out:” Angelo wants to, but macho Nino hasn’t changed his attitudes toward gay men since high school. Then Pina Lunetti, all big hair and swaying hips, shows up to boost the romance and laughs with a twist.

Mambo Italiano may have enough Italian stereotypes to distract the Italian Anti-Defamation League from their vendetta against “The Sopranos.” This movie is lighter than a cannoli. It’s amusing, but rarely laugh-out-loud. It could stand a heavier dose of lovesick characters to bring out the true flavor of a strong romantic comedy. Still Mambo Italiano is an entertaining cinematic dish.


Opens Friday exclusively at the Main Art Theatre (118 N. Main, Royal Oak). Call 248-263-2111.

James Keith La Croix writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail [email protected].

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