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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Mambo Italiano (2003)

"Being gay and Italian is a fate worse than... Actually, there's no fate worse than being gay and Italian!"
- Angelo Barberini (Luke Kirby)

Review By: Robert Edwards   
Published: February 17, 2004

Stars: Luke Kirby, Peter Miller, Ginette Reno, Paul Sorvino
Other Stars: Mary Walsh, Sophie Lorain, Claudia Ferri
Director: Émile Gaudreault

MPAA Rating: R for (language, sexual situations)
Run Time: 01h:29m:04s
Release Date: February 17, 2004
UPC: 043396027930
Genre: comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B B-B+B+ D

DVD Review

Boy meets boy. Boy wants to come out of the closet, but other boy is afraid of how it will affect his career, and of course both boys' parents are horrified. So other boy takes up with girl, much to boy's distress.

Boy lives at home with his first-generation immigrant parents, who are part of a closely-knit ethnic community. Boy's parents still have the mindset of the old country, and are desperately unhappy when boy breaks free into the modern world, with all of its strangeness, aberrant morality, and lack of tradition.

Sound like you've heard it all before, twice? Well, mostly, you have. Director and co-writer Émile Gaudreault's Mambo Italiano is a combination of those two old warhorses, the gay-coming-out comedy and the oh-so-horrible (but amusing) ethnic family comedy. Angelo (Luke Kirby) and Nino (Peter Miller) were best buddies until high school, when Angelo's reputation as not quite being straight as an arrow made him the target of abuse and ridicule, and Nino dropped him as a friend. It's now a few years later, and Angelo has just moved out of the family home, much to his parents' chagrin. They come to visit his new apartment, but it's been broken into, and when they call the cops, who should show up but the now-handsome and hunky Nino.

As quick as you can say "I always suspected you were bent," Nino moves in with Angelo, but as Angelo says, "there is no fate worse than being gay and Italian," especially when it means you have to keep your living arrangements a secret from your parents. The two boys are apparently quite happy being in the closet, but it's not long before Angelo's wacky sister Anna (Claudia Ferri) finds out, and it's only a matter of time until their little secret is discovered by all the relatives. What's worse, Nino's partner on the police force has heard some unsavory rumors, and soon history is repeating itself as Nino distances himself from Angelo, in the worst way possible.

Although it's based on a play, the film is in no way stagy. It's set in Montreal's Little Italy neighborhood, and director Gaudreault opens up the action, filming family gatherings in the backyards and communal gardens, and setting scenes in streets and cafés. There's a real sense of place to the film, and references to Montreal abound—Angelo's father Gino (Paul Sorvino) even knows which streets delineate Montreal's Gay Village along Ste.-Catherine Street!

With its derivative plot and fairly predictable character arcs, Mambo Italiano could have been one big yawn-fest, but it's not. The humor frequently rises above the stock situations, there are some amusing personality quirks on display, and if you think you can guess the dénouement, you're dead wrong. Gaudreault films in a fairly kinetic style, with lots of cutting and camera movement, and Patricia Christie's amusingly retro 1960s and '70s-inspired decors are a real treat. The performances are mostly good, especially in the case of Luke Kirby, although Mary Walsh's turn as Nino's mama is a little too over the top, even for this movie. So if you aren't offended by hand-waving Italian stereotypes and have a reasonable tolerance for (mostly) predictable plots, or just like to look at cute guys, put on your dancing shoes and spend an evening with Mambo Italiano.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The anamorphic 1.85 transfer is mostly very good, with lots of detail, good black levels, and no edge enhancement. The colors are lush and full, in fact a little too lush and full, and this oversaturation renders skin tones unnatural through most of the film.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The 5.1 audio is quite good, with lots of range and spaciousness to the sound. There isn't a whole lot of surround in most of the scenes, although the music is spread across all channels and is quite effective. Subwoofer activity is minimal.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
5 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Animal, I Capture the Castle, The New Guy, Stark Raving Mad, Stripes
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Printed insert with chapter listing
Extras Review: Columbia provides a weird assortment of five trailers, concentrating on the extremely lowbrow. The Animal and The New Guy are presented in anamorphic 1.85 with excellent transfers and dynamic sound, whereas I Capture the Castle, Stark Raving Mad, and Stripes are all in 1.33, and don't look as good.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

Mambo Italiano is one step above most coming out and ethnic family comedies, with a plot that's not quite as predictable as one might expect. Director Émile Gaudreault mixes an interesting visual style with flashbacks and fantasy sequences to create an amusing, enjoyable film, and the transfer is mostly very good.


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