Heartwarming is not always a bad thing. Consider this family film from writer-director Robert Shallcross: It's not only warm and fuzzy in all the right places, it's something that the whole family might actually enjoy. For the first time in his long life, elderly ferry-boat driver Nino Micelli (Pierrino Mascarino) is leaving his idyllic hometown in Tuscany,...read more
Heartwarming is not always a bad thing. Consider this family film from writer-director Robert Shallcross: It's not only warm and fuzzy in all the right places, it's something that the whole family might actually enjoy. For the first time in his long life, elderly ferry-boat driver Nino Micelli (Pierrino Mascarino) is leaving his idyllic hometown in Tuscany, Italy and coming to the United States, specifically to Glenview, IL, where the family of his late, emigrant brother now live. Nino's nephew, Robert Micelli (Joe Mantegna), is a corporate executive who's just been put in charge of a huge project that could lead to a major promotion and his own parking space. Unfortunately, his ambition doesn't leave much time for his quietly suffering wife, Marie (Anne Archer), his daughter, Gina (Mantegna's real-life daughter, Gina Mantegna), or his son, Bobby (Trevor Morgan). The letter Uncle Nino sent announcing his arrival gets lost in the hectic shuffle of the Micelli household, and it isn't until his plane touches ground that Robert realizes that the uncle whom he hasn't seen since he was a kid is coming to stay. Too busy even to take his guest to the cemetery where his brother is buried, Robert sticks Marie with Uncle Nino, an eccentric who wakes up at the crack of dawn, greets the morning — and all his sleeping neighbors — with his fiddle, and barely speaks any English. Uncle Nino's thrilled to be in the land of Abraham Lincoln, whom he worships, but is bewildered by the quality of sterile supermarket produce, the Chinese take-out, wine-in-a-box, plastic flowers and the general artificiality of American life. Nino's also saddened by how little time Robert has for his family, and the deep resentment Gina and Robert harbor towards their father. Needless to say, kindly Uncle Nino soon improves the quality of Marie's life, bonds with the unhappy Micelli kids — with Gina, over her love of dogs, and Bobby, over his love of music — then teaches Robert a valuable lesson in the meaning of family. He also reveals a surprising secret about himself. The corn is as high as an elephant's eye and whole thing is bathed in the kind of golden, late-afternoon light that practically screams "Hallmark Home Entertainment," but why complain? Even considering Shallcross's apparent conviction that old Italian men really do travel with a salami in one pocket and a bottle of red wine in the other, his film is tight and nicely acted on all fronts. Young Morgan is a standout and Mascarino mercifully underplays what could have been a crude caricature. And where, exactly, has Anne Archer been keeping herself?