Gianni is mad as heck and maybe isn’t going to take it, at least for now, in Gianni Di Gregorio’s wanly congenial “Good for Nothing.” The weakest of the helmer-actor’s three features (“Mid-August Lunch” remains the best), this OK tale of an amiable schnook learning that a little nastiness gets you further than perpetual niceness is unwaveringly sunny, like the forgettable comedies Fred MacMurray made for Disney in the 1960s. Lacking the cross-generational appeal of Di Gregorio’s previous efforts, “Good” did next to nothing at home, though French and Swiss releases plus TV sales should help the balance sheets.
The world seems to be conspiring against poor Gianni (Di Gregorio): His ex (Valentina Gebbia) is demanding, his neighbor (Giovanna Cau) is a termagant, and just when he thought he could retire, the law changes and he’s forced to keep working for another three years. Worse, he’s transferred from his old-fashioned office in Rome’s downtown to a spanking new complex on the outskirts.
He’s just not adapted to newfangled things like computers, but luckily his office mate Marco (Marco Marzocca) is a whiz, always ready to help. Maybe that’s why everyone takes advantage of Marco, from lazy colleague Cinzia (Valentina Lodovini) to imperious schnorrer Christian (Gianfelice Imparato). Gianni’s getting the short end of the stick from Christian, too, until he finally takes some advice and starts being impish and demanding, like the rest of the world. “To get respect you need to command respect” is the old idea, and pretty soon Gianni supplants Christian in the eyes of their boss (Anna Bonaiuto). Can he keep standing up for himself, and can he get Marco to do the same?
The script doesn’t have teeth — it barely has dentures — though it seems to want to say something about stereotyped Italian work methods. Di Gregorio’s screen persona remains as likable as ever, but his material is more watered down than usual, and the weak ending suggests that he just didn’t know how to wrap things up. Characters remain cheerily cartoonish throughout, which works in the case of his grumpy neighbor (ex-agent Cau remains ever a delight) but watching Lodovini play yet another cleavage-strutting airhead is simply depressing. Visuals are as bright and nondescript as the whole package.