The Whole Shebang

on February 11, 2003 by Susan Green
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In what might have been the comic antithesis to "The Sopranos," a large Italian clan's family business in suburban New Jersey centers on fireworks rather than firepower (or baseball bats or garrotes). Yet "The Whole Shebang" is a thoroughly predictable first feature by writer/director George Zaloom, previously a producer of documentaries ("Heart of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse") and TV specials. Stanley Tucci and Giancarlo Gianinni work hard--very hard--to provide this comedy with some genuine screwball credentials, but they cannot overcome the dismal script, tedious cartoon whimsy and misguided editing.

When his oldest son is killed in a pyrotechnic disaster sparked by an adulterous liaison, patriarch Frank Bazinni (Gianinni), his wife (Talia Shire) and recently widowed daughter-in-law Val (Bridget Fonda) battle a rival company owned by the ruthless Zitos. Frank's goofy nephew Giovanni (Tucci) comes from Naples to help out. Val is charmed by this violin-playing misfit. He also gets on famously with her young son, who has become mute since losing his father. Thanks to a misunderstanding, however, she agrees to marry dim-bulb Joey Zito (Anthony DeSando). As everyone prepares for a big fireworks contest back in Napoli, it's obvious the good goombas will triumph in love and war.

Zaloom squanders some of the most promising scenes, particularly when Giovanni accidentally spills his soda on a pizza parlor's Virgin Mary shrine and unsuspecting patrons believe they're witnessing a miraculous weeping Madonna. Shire and Fonda have little to do but act noble, while Anna Maria Alberghetti enjoys a juicier role as the sexy, scheming Isabella Zito. Ginannini inhabits his part with ease, but Tucci is a bit too self-consciously Chaplinesque as a klutzy sad sack. Starring Stanley Tucci, Bridget Fonda, Giancarlo Giannnini, Talia Shire, Anna Maria Alberghetti and Anthony DeSando. Directed by George Zaloom. Written by Jeff Rothberg and George Zaloom. Produced by Nick Gillott, Paul E. Harvey and David Kirkpatrick. A Lions Gate release. Comedy. Unrated. Running time: 98 min.

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