Uncle Nino

Uncle Nino played for over one year at a theater in Michigan. This feat helped it to secure national distribution. It's easy to see why people enjoy this film; it is an unabashedly optimistic family film, an old-fashioned endeavor from writer/director Robert Shallcross (Bored Silly). Shallcross clearly has his heart in the right place when he made Uncle Nino. However, it is also simplistic, cheesy, and is so stereotypical that it borders on offensive. The world of the movie is one that really doesn't exist anymore, where things are black and white. The Micelli family is in a state of crisis. They moved to accommodate Robert (Joe Mantegna, Stateside, The Trumpet of the Swan), who has his sights on a promotion at work and is never home. Marie (Anne Archer, The Art of War, Rules of Engagement) is a harried mother, juggling parenting and work. Gina (Gina Mantegna, 13 Going on 30) wants a dog, and Bobby's (Trevor Morgan, Mean Creek, The Rookie) grades are dropping and he is hanging out with the wrong crowd.

Into this powder keg steps Uncle Nino (Pierrino Mascarino, Tears of the Sun, Down Periscope), Robert's uncle from Italy. For every Italian who flinched at stereotypes in The Sopranos, Nino will make them faint. Nino loves food, bottles his own wine, is fascinated with Abraham Lincoln, plays the violin, and hails from a village that seems steeped in the past. The only thing left for him to do is don a blue and red overall and start stomping turtles. Nino arrives in America, much to the surprise of the Micelli family, who view him as a really weird old man. He is dismayed at how far apart the Micellis are. They do not eat dinner together, the kids disrespect their parents, and the parents are never home for the kids.

Well, leave it to Uncle Nino to make everything better. His persistence and old world charm begins to change the views of everybody around him. Meanwhile, he'll do wacky things like uproot the lawn, cut flowers, and offer salami to strangers. He is so different than the people around him that everybody notices his actions. He gently persuades them to make changes for the better, and slowly but surely the Micell's begin to come together as a family. And he doesn't even speak English!

It feels bad knocking a film like this, but Shallcross makes things a bit too simplistic. This is not the real world, this is some after school special. Only in the world of Uncle Nino will teenagers stop smoking after one lecture and find an old man playing the violin really cool. While most people will find the unsophisticatedness of the film endearing, it actually works against the movie. Shallcross presents his version of what a perfect family should be, and while it sounds like a good idea, this will just never happen in the real world. The surprising aspect of Shallcross' film is that it is not more sappy or corny given the material.

Mongoose Rates It: Okay.
1 hour, 42 minutes, Rated PG for language and some teen smoking.

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