Italy’s long-running Fantozzi series — a notch above other Christmas regulars in terms of concept — reaches its 10th installment with “Fantozzi 2000: The Cloning.” The model office worker created by comic Paolo Villaggio in 1968 as the ultimate doormat is here cloned from a lock of hair by a multinational looking for more servility in its employees. Villaggio’s character may be indestructible, but the series’ cruel black humor — source of its popularity — has lost much of its edge. Pic seriously underperformed at the holiday box office and has almost no international potential to recoup its losses.
However valiantly director Domenico Saverni and co-scripter Alessandro Bencivenni try to follow the formula, Fantozzi’s angry anarchism mellows to banal sentiment when he takes some poor little rich kids to the zoo, or declares his love to long-suffering wife Pina (evergreen Milena Vukotic). Laced with comic-strip gags of exploding cars, rockets and fireworks, episodes touch on a mass of current Italian obsessions, including playing the lottery and signing IOUs to live far beyond one’s means, male strip shows and crashing VIP parties.