Mambo Italiano Review

Based on Steve Galluccio’s play of the same name, Mambo Italiano is lumbered with an oddly vague title which tells us little about the film ahead. Admittedly we do become aware of the presence of Italians and of a general feelgood tone, but otherwise it’s a rather useless tag. More indicative of the filmmakers’ intentions is the blurb from the theatrical trailer: “It’s bigger. It’s fatter. It’s not Greek.” In other words, hopes are high for a sleeper romantic hit.

Indeed, Mambo Italiano is certainly inauspicious. Financed, shot and set in Canada (amongst Quebec’s cinematically rare Italian community), its biggest, most recognisable name is Paul Sorvino of GoodFellas fame, who is here given a similarly small supporting role, but without the same dramatic weight. Rather Mambo Italiano is lightweight, flimsy comedy fare, one made slightly more notable owing to a slight twist. Instead of the usual boy meets girl dynamic, the film sees boy meet boy, though essentially the outcomes are the same. Just as those romantic dramas revolving around middle class girls and their lovers from the wrong side of the tracks would be as much about acceptance as they would about romance, so too Mambo Italiano puts most of its energies into detailing the families’ reactions.

As such we get twenty minutes of exposition, a full hour of denial and then all the loose ends are tied in a final, supposedly rousing five minutes in which everyone accepts everyone else and lives happily ever after. I say supposedly as Mambo Italiano spends too much time running on the spot for us to actually care. Nothing appears to be developing beyond another highly pitched argument and so all we are left with is a bunch of very broad Italian stereotypes shouting at each other and gesticulating wildly.

Of course, such limitations to its setups inevitably bring to mind the sitcom mode – and this is very much Mambo Italiano through and through. The entire production has a cheapness which makes you wonder how it ever managed to secure theatrical distribution (in the US and the UK), however brief its run may have been. Indeed, there’s even a certain ugliness as the photography has clearly been manipulated to make the dour Canadian setting appear more bright and buoyant as is befitting for this kind of film. More importantly, however, the film doesn’t even prove itself to be a good sitcom as the actual humour is especially dire (and frequently forced). And with nothing to fall back on, sitting through Mambo Italiano becomes an extremely trying task.

The Disc

According to BBFC’s website, Icon had two versions of Mambo Italiano classified for home video distribution. One was a PAL transfer, the other an NTSC to PAL transfer – and it is, disappointingly, the latter which we get here. As such, whilst the film may be transferred anamorphically (at a ratio of 1.78:1) and taken from a crisp, clean print, it can’t help but look unexceptional. Of course, the photography isn’t great in the first, but this state of affairs only serves to enhance the ugliness of the image whilst also rendering it a touch too soft.

As for the soundtrack, Icon have issued the film with its original DD5.1 mix plus an optional choice of stereo. Understandably, the latter is thus rendered more than a little pointless, though both mixes prove themselves to be technically sound. Moreover, the 5.1 option isn’t especially expansive, and so either choice would serve the film well.

The disc also finds room for a number of special features, some more deserving of a place than others. The brief ‘making of’ is typical EPK fluff and tells us little that we’d actually want to know. Two of three deleted/extended scenes actually prove themselves to be funnier than anything included in the main feature, though sadly the same can’t be said for the outtakes which appear more than a little indulgent. And the package is rounded off with the theatrical trailer. Note also that all of these extras are without optional subtitles, English or otherwise.

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