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If I Were You

Identity-switch hocus-pocus gets trotted out as a comic conceit once again in "If I Were You," a polished and pleasant -- if unoriginal -- feature debut for director-co-writer Giulio Manfredonia. Given a set of basic plot contrivances that are worked out in reasonably clever fashion pic is ripe remake material that could be readily improved upon.

With:
With: Emilio Solfrizzi, Gioele Dix, Paola Cortellesi, Fabio de Luigi, Lunetta Savino, Manuela Ungaro, Bob Messini, Alberto Bognani, Mauro Marino.

Identity-switch hocus-pocus gets trotted out as a comic conceit once again in “If I Were You,” a polished and pleasant — if unoriginal — feature debut for director-co-writer Giulio Manfredonia. Given a set of basic plot contrivances that are worked out in reasonably clever fashion, albeit sans any special depth or witty dialogue, pic is ripe remake material that could be readily improved upon. Current edition, in any case, should prove attractive fodder for offshore ancillary buyers.

Fate throws together three wildly different men, each in a serious funk: Accountant Andrea (Emilio Solfrizzi) rues his status as a middle-class husband and father and regrets having given up his dreams of becoming a stand-up comic; poor little rich guy Bernardo (Gioele Dix) is a corporate tycoon whose abrasive, ulcer-producing ways have driven away any chance at happiness; goofy, sweet-natured DJ Christian (Fabio de Luigi) is forever broke, with creditors closing in.

Strangers, the trio winds up boozing it up one night on the beach. When each wishes to be in another’s place, swirling stars overhead abruptly grant the request. Andrea (the first to panic in his new skin) gets to be duty-unencumbered Christian, and duly sees his comedy act soar. Bernardo gets the wife and children he’d always wanted, even if they’re Andrea’s. Christian revels in Bernardo’s limitless wealth.

But problems soon crop up: Andrea’s showbiz success feels empty without his family to share it with, Bernardo’s tendency to run domestic life like a corporate hierarchy doesn’t play well, and hapless Christian allows a top multinational concern to risk collapse. Each man soon wants to be back in his former circumstances.

In pic’s one real divergence from comic formula, that change-back never happens — protags must stay put, though they finally manage to make their new lives adapt to old personalities (and finagle re-uniting with the spouse that’s truly right for them).

Initially diverting but trite, breezy progress grows more amusing as characters face more daunting challenges. Script might better have fine-tooled comic aspects rather than turning gradually toward so-so “heartwarming” terrain. But it remains enjoyable throughout. Good perfs (de Luigi is especially ingratiating), slick production values and a lively pace complete package.

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If I Were You

Italy

Production: An IntraMovies presentation of a Cattleya production in association with Tele+. Produced by Riccardo Tozzi, Marco Chimenz, Giovanni Stabilini. Directed by Giulio Manfredonia. Screenplay, Manfredonia, Valentina Capecci, Anna Maria Morelli, Marco Ponti.

Crew: Camera (color), Gino Sgreva; editor, Ceclia Zanuso; music, Pivio, Aldo De Scalzi; production designer, Stefano Pica; costume designer, Antonella Berardi; sound (Dolby), Bruno Pupparo; assistant director, Tomaso Pessina; casting, Mirta Guarnaschelli. Reviewed at New Italian Cinema Events, San Francisco, Nov. 22, 2002. Running time: 101 MIN.

With: With: Emilio Solfrizzi, Gioele Dix, Paola Cortellesi, Fabio de Luigi, Lunetta Savino, Manuela Ungaro, Bob Messini, Alberto Bognani, Mauro Marino.

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