14 March 2011 | lor_
Weak comedy from Samperi, for locals only
Salvatore Samperi is my favorite Italian director of erotica, with several classics (NENE, MALIZIA, SUBMISSION) to his credit, but like his peers he had to earn bread churning out a dumb comedy once in a while, and VIA ALLA GRANDE is one of them.
My usual thrill at seeing a film never made available here in America quickly dissipated when it became obvious that GRANDE adheres to the dumbest of slapstick comedy formulae. Hollywood made so many ephemeral "youthful hijinx" romps in the '80s it is unnecessary to see a foreign version.
Story revolves around a quartet of anarchic youngsters, who walk around town doing coordinated dance moves, or emulating the Beatles' iconic crosswalk stance on the cover of their "Abbey Road" LP.
Their practical joke antics are 100% unfunny (to me, a non-Italian), as they put a transmitter inside the coffin to broadcast rude marks, disrupting a funeral; embarrass an imperious scoutmaster with literal blackout pranks on a train every time it goes dark moving through tunnels, etc.
The quartet is augmented by one of Samperi's greatest leading ladies, a grown-up Lara Wendel, who plays a sympathetic young woman from Berlin who has been pimped out by a villain driving a Jaguar, and escapes his clutches to have myriad boring adventures. She's aided by a goofy looking Eddie Deezen type (whose naturally pointy ears should have earned him a horror/comedy career), an old-old sugar daddy who takes her on a shopping spree but later tries to turn her in to the cops for hustling, and a posh guy Fernando who the quartet initially make fun of, but who eventually turns out against expectations to be a good guy.
Essentially this horrendous attempt at humor reminded me a bit of Richard Lester's brilliant and highly influential '60s comedies THE KNACK and A HARD DAY'S NIGHT, but Samperi flunked out. Perhaps the silliest segment has one of the extended group of comics (four is just the main core) dressing up in a cheapjack "E.T" costume replete with glow in the dark finger to scare a night watchman.
Pointless would actually be high praise for the result, which unfortunately wastes the beauty and talent of Wendel, who had the privilege of working for some of Italy's most brilliant directors (Antonioni, Fellini, Mauro Bolognini and Dario Argento), and did make several classic and highly controversial movies, notably SPIELEN WIR LIEBE, the Moravia adaptation DESIDERIA and Samperi's ERNESTO. GRANDE is an off day for all concerned.