The golden boy of Italian commercial cinema, Leonardo Pieraccioni, appears to have conceived his third feature, “Fireworks,” in a rush to capitalize on the phenomenal success of last year’s “The Cyclone,” which became the country’s all-time B.O. champ. Combining the same winning ingredients of innocuous comedy, boyish charm and beautiful babes, but even less reliant on narrative backbone than its predecessor, the new offering shows neither growth nor ambition in its director-star. National audiences seem unconcerned, however, as the approx $2.5 million-budgeted pic has alsready scored a knockout tally of almost $25 million in its first four weeks.
While Florentine former cabaret performer Pieraccioni’s previous films have opened small and gradually expanded as word of mouth spread, producer-distrib the Cecchi Gori Group opted for the widest release in Italian history for “Fireworks,” launching on a record 609 screens. Given that the formula here is a little less fresh than in the $44 million grosser “The Cyclone,” that strategy may have been dictated by fear of a faster burnout.
Plotline is wafer-thin. Ottone (Pieraccioni) is a minority partner in a pet store and dog-sitting business controlled by imperious beauty Lorenza (Claudia Gerini). After losing his lover to the local butcher, he moves in with platonic chum Barbara (Barbara Enrichi), finds a supportive listener in her exotic but virtuous neighbor Demiu (Mandala Tayde) and dedicates himself to romancing comely Argentine heiress Luna (Vanessa Lorenzo), who is secretly married and using unsuspecting Ottone as a plaything.
Parallel to this runs the amorous campaigning of Ottone’s friend Germano (Massimo Ceccherini), literally a live wire; he was struck years earlier by lightning while leaving a costume party but saved by his rubber Spiderman boots. The two guys’ quest for true love is framed by segments in the Maldives, where Ottone waylays a vacationing psychoanalyst (Luigi Petrucci) for help in fathoming his tormented history with women.
It’s in the Maldives scenes especially that the script by Pieraccioni and regular collaborator Giovanni Veronesi shows signs of hasty assembly. The switch in the patient-shrink rapport as Ottone gives the doc an education in the complexities of human nature is clumsily achieved, and the fun of guessing which woman the protagonist will end up with is muffled by the obviousness of this from her first moment onscreen. The remainder of the film, set in Ottone’s rustic Tuscan hometown, plays like a series of gags that are often appealing but lacking in overall fluidity.
Glaring as these shortcomings might seem, however, they appear to have little effect on Pieraccioni’s knack for seducing Italian audiences with warmhearted but entirely insubstantial entertainment like this. The actor-director has none of the comic bravura of, say, Roberto Benigni, but he has tapped into a rich vein of national popularity with his highly personable, self-effacing screen personality, a kind of sweet-natured, cheerful Everyman who is not too sophisticated or savvy.