Review: ‘Our Tropical Island’

An Italian "Home Alone," "Our Tropical Island" strands an entire dysfunctional family in the basement of their home for a two-week "vacation" in a desperate ploy to hide their bankruptcy from neighbors and colleagues. Helmer Marcello Cesena pumps up the volume for an aggressively loud, overblown farce.

An Italian “Home Alone,” “Our Tropical Island” strands an entire dysfunctional family in the basement of their home for a two-week “vacation” in a desperate ploy to hide their bankruptcy from neighbors and colleagues. Taking Thomas Bahmann’s 1999 German film “Our Island in the South Pacific” as his blueprint, helmer Marcello Cesena pumps up the volume for an aggressively loud, overblown farce that improves minimally as it progresses, whether due to well-engineered payoffs of running-gags or simply because one acclimates to pic’s trumpeted anarchy and uncomfortably close-up mugging. Broad burlesque is probably untranslatable to American screens, even small ones.

Hero, a financial adviser who was embezzled, scrambles frantically to preserve appearances. In the rat-infested basement of their palatial home, the family survives on pickled vegetables, making commando raids on upper floors, local supermarkets and double-crossing neighbors. Thesps pull off the overstated physical gags with aplomb, and manage to bicker attractively, particularly Victoria Abril, who brings sardonic warmth to her potentially unappealing wife role. Disasters snowball until the final explosion, which proves as cathartic to the reunited family as it is welcome to the audience.

Our Tropical Island

Italy

Production

A Cattleya production. Produced by Ricardo Tozzi, Marco Chimenz, Giovanni Stabilini. Directed by Marcello Casena. Screenplay, Cesena, Thomas Bahmann, Han Turner.

Crew

Camera (color), Regis Blondeau; editor, Florio Sampieri; music, Paolo Silvestri. Reviewed at Fort Lauderdale Film Festival (World Cinema), Nov. 3, 2002. Original title: Mari del sud. Running time: 94 min.

With

Diego Abatantuono, Victoria Abril, Chiari Sani, Stefano Scandaletti, Giulia Steigerwalt, Antonio Stornaiolo, Clara Modugno.
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