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Too Much Romance … It’s Time For Stuffed Peppers

"Too Much Romance ... It's Time for Stuffed Peppers," latest collaboration between Lina Wertmuller and Sophia Loren, is a pleasant if overstuffed dysfunctional family comedy whose clutter can't ultimately prevent a pretty good time. Feature was made for Italo TV; apparent co-existence of an English-language version should abet tube sales to other markets as well as fest dates.

With:
With: Sophia Loren, F. Murray Abraham, Angela Pagano, Elio Pandolfi, Armando Pugliesi, Carolina Rosi, Caspar Zafer, Melissa Lhoman, Silvia Abascal. Moira Grassi. Jesus Emiliano Coltorti, Silvia Abrascal, Anna Longhi, Maria Zulima Job, Nicolas Nati.

Too Much Romance … It’s Time for Stuffed Peppers,” latest collaboration between 78-year-old Lina Wertmuller and the merely 70 Sophia Loren (latter’s preserved looks repping a miracle of either nature or science), is a pleasant if overstuffed dysfunctional family comedy whose clutter can’t ultimately prevent a pretty good time. Co-starring a voice-dubbed F. Murray Abraham, feature was made for Italo TV; apparent co-existence of an English-language version should abet tube sales to other markets as well as fest dates.

Things have come to a sour pass between longtime spouses Maria (Loren) and Jeffrey (F. Murray Abraham), an American who gave up his journalism career for a humble fisherman’s cap at his bride’s native Amalfi Coast home. (Typical of the messy screenplay logic here, hubby must’ve switched careers decades ago given their children’s ages, yet characters speak about his writing days as if they’d just been abandoned.)

Now, Jeffrey sleeps in his boat, while Maria holds down the fort in their quaint, crumbling seaside abode with her elderly Uncle Melino (Elio Pandolfi) and potty-mouthed senile mom Assunta (Angela Pagano).

Grandma’s birthday brings Maria and Jeffrey’s three off-spring back home, each dragging his or her own relationship woes along. Franceso (Caspar Zafer) is a literary author embarrassed by the matinee-idol fame brought on by his uncharacteristically trashy latest tome. Feeling he’s lost the respect of his rather snobbish wife Mary’s (Melissa Lhoman) as a result, he’s further harried by the borderline nutty, amorous attentions of secretary-cum-stalker Lola (Maria Zulima Job).

Sedate doctor Marco (Emiliano Coltorti) loves his three offspring and wife Elena (Moira Grassi), but she’s decided to chuck it all to become an actress.

Meanwhile, flagging free spirit Miriam (Carolina Rosi) has just found out she’s pregnant — and doesn’t know which of her less than emotionally fulfilling recent boyfriends is the father.

Once all descend, it’s a free-for-all as focus on individual problems alternates with general comic chaos. There’s nary a dull moment, and cast is uniformly attractive if sometimes pushed toward caricature (poor post-synching of Italian dialogue doesn’t help).

But all of the colorful conflicts stay superficial, with the non-blood-relation females gratingly hysterical, resolutions too conveniently rushed, and a particular letdown felt by aud when it turns out Maria and Jeffrey’s potentially wedlock-ending spat was based on a dumb misunderstanding.

Nonetheless, energy is ingratiatingly high on both sides of the camera, making “Too Much Romance…” a crowd-pleaser despite flaws. Photography (by Beppe Lanci) is too routine to take full advantage of the gorgeous setting; other tech/design contribs are solid. Several principals were dubbed in Italo version by other thesps, with Ennio Coltori providing Abraham’s voice.

Too Much Romance ... It's Time For Stuffed Peppers

Italy

Production: A Solaris Intl. and GAM Film production. Produced by Adriano and Guglielmo Arie. Directed by Lina Wertmuller. Screenplay, Umberto Marino, Elvio Porta, Wertmuller, from a story by Marino.

Crew: Camera (color), Beppe Lanci; editor, Pierluigi Leopardi; music, Lilli Greco; production designer, Enrico Job; art director, Virginia Vianello; costumes, Sybille Ulsammer; sound (Dolby Digital), Massimo Pisa; assistant director, Antonio Tozzi. Reviewed at New Italian Cinema Events, San Francisco, Nov. 14, 2004. Running time: 104 MIN.

With: With: Sophia Loren, F. Murray Abraham, Angela Pagano, Elio Pandolfi, Armando Pugliesi, Carolina Rosi, Caspar Zafer, Melissa Lhoman, Silvia Abascal. Moira Grassi. Jesus Emiliano Coltorti, Silvia Abrascal, Anna Longhi, Maria Zulima Job, Nicolas Nati.

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