Actor-director Leonardo Pieraccioni cements his status as an able pilot of popular comedies for a new generation of mainstream Italian moviegoers with his sophomore feature, "The Cyclone." The former standup comic's 1995 debut, "The Graduates," was last season's sleeper; this story of a sedentary family in rural Tuscany swept off its feet by the arrival of a flamenco dance troupe is considerably more polished but marred by the same fragile structure. However, the agreeable comedy has scored domestically and could do likewise in other Euro territories. Pieraccioni plays Levante Quarini, a mild-mannered accountant who lives an existence of congenial monotony in a sprawling homestead on the family vineyard with his father (Sergio Forconi), his eccentric artist brother (Massimo Ceccherini) and his lesbian sister (Barbara Enrichi).
When the inept impresario (Alessandro Haber) behind a traveling band of Spanish hoofers bungles their accommodation and tour bookings, the Quarinis agree to put them up. During their three-day stay, the dancers cast a spell on the family, in particular Levante, who falls for willowy Caterina (Lorena Forteza).
The buoyant opening stretch affectionately conveys the routine nature of village life, introducing an engaging ensemble of characters that recalls those of other Tuscan comedy exponents like Alessandro Benvenuti. This segues to the whiff of sensuality that blows into town with the flamenco troupe. But Pieraccioni and co-scripter Giovanni Veronesi fail to make the most of the setup, contenting themselves with creating romantic havoc among isolated characters rather than the cyclonic devastation promised by the title.
Despite a lack of steam in the increasingly predictable latter half, with Levante followowing Caterina to Florence to navigate the obstacle-strewn path to their inevitable union, the film remains on-track thanks to its spirited, attractive cast.
Pieraccioni’s direction of the actors could be more purposeful, but smart performers like Ceccherini, Enrichi and Paolo Hendel as the town’s skirt-chasing mechanic are fresh and funny as they go with the material’s good-natured vulgarity. Veteran director Mario Monicelli is featured as the voice of the Quarinis’ sprightly old neighbor.