Talented legit and small-screen comic trio Aldo, Giovanni and Giacomo have fashioned a road-worthy vehicle for their well-honed shtick in “Three Men and a Leg,” which follows Antonio Albanese’s “Freshwater Man” as the second hit film debut spawned by Italian TV’s popular alternative comedy show “Never Say Goal.” This small but satisfying road movie is doing brisk national business thanks to the stars’ stalwart following but looks to kindle limited interest offshore, where their act is unknown.
Story chronicles a car trip from Milan to southern Puglia, where the three stooges, all salesclerks in a hardware store, are set to rendezvous with their overbearing, nouveau riche boss, Eros (Carlo Croccolo). Aldo and Giovanni (Aldo Baglio, Giovanni Storti) are married to two of his shrewish daughters, while Giacomo (Giacomo Poretti) is about to get hitched to a third. Their cargo is Eros’ beloved pet pooch and a valuable wooden sculpture of a leg.
Complications arise when they inadvertently kill the dog, and escalate when a minor collision forces them to make room for sweet-natured vacationer Chiara (Marina Massironi). As Giacomo succumbs to her innocent charms, and the precious limb slips in and out of their hands, Eros becomes increasingly infuriated by their delayed arrival. The journey’s pleasures gradually prompt the trio to re-evaluate the petty concerns of their lives under the thumb of a tyrannical boss.
Aside from jokey parodies of a pulpy gangster pic and a neo-realist drama, somewhat forcibly integrated as films within the action, and a Gothic vampire tale that passes as a dream, pic represents a successful departure from the group’s sketch-based TV work into more fluid narrative territory.
Direction (by AG&G and co-writer Massimo Venier) often lacks energy, but the cleanly shot film and its familiar story function adequately as a showcase for the trio’s engaging comedy. Their well-defined, contrasting personalities are deftly played against one another, with naive Aldo’s lackadaisical Southern-ness making a splendid foil for Giovanni’s uptight, Northern cynicism and Giacomo’s more fragile sensitivity. Fellow “Never Say Goal” alumna Massironi’s understated comic style meshes well, and veteran character actor Croccolo has fun with the vulgar patriarch.