A behind-the-scenes comedy about the making of a reality TV show, “My Uncle Rafael” looks suspiciously like an outright sitcom itself, with the same careful dosage of sententiousness and one-liners. Adapted from a play by Vahik Pirhamzei, and starring that Armenian showman in a dual role, the pic inserts crusty old Uncle Rafael (Pirhamzei) into a dysfunctional family almost riven by divorce, and lets him work his Old World charm to heal its members, expel an intruder and restore domestic tranquility. Outlook appears dim for this heavy-handedly sentimental ethnic romp, opening Sept. 21 in scattered venues.
Sporting a bad limp and a thick accent, Rafael intervenes with affectionate face slaps, ego strokes and bald manipulation. He turns a rebellious teenage daughter (Carly Chaikin) more compliant, helps a bright but smart-mouthed 10-year-old (Sage Ryan) ace his schoolwork, convinces an estranged workaholic dad (Anthony Clark) to change his tune, teaches patience to a ditzy wife (Missi Pyle), and exposes her lying lover (John Michael Higgins). Meanwhile, his aspiring reality-show producer (Rachel Blanchard), slick co-producer son (also Pirhamzei) and the camera crew record the goings-on with glee.