30 July 2005 | gradyharp
A Picturesque Italian American Frolic
THE WHOLE SHEBANG is a movie made for television, a category that in some circles places a hex, but in the case of HBO films it is a definite plus! This little unpretentious story plays like a sweet foreign film like 'Life is Beautiful' and is directed (George Zaloom) with zest and played by an all star cast that makes it a fine evening's entertainment.
The Bazzini family of Neptune, New Jersey owns a fireworks business in competition with the Zito family whose entrepreneurial instincts are decidedly more 'American'. The head of the Bazinni family is Pop (Giancarlo Giannini) and Contessa (Talia Shire) and the heir apparent is Frank (Christian Boucher) who is a fine pyrotechnician but is unfaithful to his non-Italian wife Val (Bridget Fonda). As the story opens Frank is perfecting the 'blue' firework and while working he is distracted by his latest lady conquest who diverts his attention causing the whole Bazinni Fireworks Plant to literally blow up. Though the family is devastated at Frank's death, Pop looks for the next head of the company to replace Frank, and at the wake the Zito family Lady Zito (Anna Maria Alberghetti looking terrific!) inserts her son Joey (Anthony DeSando) into an evil-planned courtship of the newly widowed Val in hopes of overtaking the Bazinni business.
Meanwhile, in Naples Italy we meet Giovanni Bazinni (Stanley Tucci, in fine form as a comedian!), a cousin to the American Bazinnis and a poor café musician unlucky in love and life. He repeatedly attempts suicide but each attempt is comically thwarted. His passion is for Maria (Jo Champa) a gold digger slut who dismisses Giovanni's affections with cold harshness. News of the Bazinni disaster in America arrives and Giovanni is sent to New Jersey to inherit the fireworks business. Once in New Jersey in flounders around the language and the business, is attracted to Val and to her son Bobby (Alexander Milani) and is adored by the Bazinni clan. In time Giovanni's good intentions often backfire (!) and the politics between the Bazinnis and the Zitos collide. The resolution of the story proves that honesty and family ties and creative perseverance result in happy endings.
The 'Italian gioio' created by this fine cast is infectious and each of the characters adds to the recipe with style. Tucci is in top form as are Giannini, Fonda, and Alberghetti. They make this rather slight script worth believing, never coming across as imitating but as embodying their roles. The frequent use of fireworks is joyous and well done and adds to the sparkle of the film. Not a great movie but certainly a solid one for a tender summer night's entertainment.