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Whole Shebang, The
Wow. Hmph. Frankly I've very little idea what to make of the exceedingly weird and consistently mawkish rom-com known as The Whole Shebang. I'd likely dismiss the material as yet another lightweight retread of My Big Fat Greek Wedding - except that The Whole Shebang actually came out first. And by "came out" what I really mean is "premiered on HBO and then promptly vanished."
The movie opens with two young lovers; they're having sex inside of a shed filled with gun powder and materials used to create fireworks. Their enthusiastic carnality leads to a spark of some sort ... and the shed immediately explodes in a massive (colorful) fireball. Both lovers are now dead. (Keep in mind that this movie is a comedy.)
Giancarlo Giannini is Pop Bazinni, father of a recently exploded son, and proprietor of Bazinni fireworks. Bridget Fonda is the now-widowed Val Bazinni, temporarily shaken by her husband's demise -- but also more than a little willing to jump back into the dating pool. Val's mother-in-law is played by Talia Shire, and she pops up in maybe five aimless sequences as The Whole Shebang lurches forward.
Cut to Italy, which is where we find the loveless sadsack known as Giovanni Bazinni. Gio is tired of a life without love, and he tries to commit suicide by way of a few broad pratfalls. But instead of ending up dead, Giovanni heads over to New Jersey to help his old uncle Pop Bazinni run his fireworks company. And if, at the point, I need to tell you that A) Giovanni and Val fall in love, and B) the whole movie ends with an elaborate fireworks competition ... then clearly you haven't seen enough made-for-HBO movies.
First, the good: Stanley Tucci is a fantastic actor. We all know this. And as Giovanni, he stands as The Whole Shebang's strongest asset -- which, I'll admit, isnt' really saying all that much, but I just dig the Tucci that much. Fonda's fine and Giannini is always a classy old presence, but without Tucci's performance, I suspect that The Whole Shebang would be borderline unwatchable.
"Schizophrenia" is the key word of the day here, folks. The Whole Shebang dips its toe into a variety of ponds, from straight romantic comedy to broad slapstick farce to "kitschy" immigrant family drama ... and practically none of it works.
One wonders how filmmaker George Zaloom (writer of Encino Man and producer of several Disney Channel projects) could concoct such an ungainly mass of disparate parts, but that's pretty much what The Whole Shebang is: an unfunny comedy laden with painfully obvious stereotypes and unconvincing romance, capped off with more oddball "quirks" and divergences than you'll care to notice. It's clear that Mr. Zaloom was going for "offbeat and extremely quirky," but all he came up with was "boring and consistently strange."
Video: A pretty decent Widescreen anamorphic transfer helps the movie along ... but not all that much.
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround, DD 2.0 Spanish, or DD 2.0 French. Sound quality is just fine, especially for a dinky little HBO movie. Optional subtitles are available in all three languages.
Extras: The DVD opens with a trailer for the Jennifer Lopez / Jane Fonda comedy Monster-in-Law.
It's been a while since I've seen the lovely Bridget Fonda in something of quality, so I approached The Whole Shebang with some mild hopefulness. Alas, the movie is a confused and fairly muddled mess. See it if you're a big fan of Giancarlo Giannini and/or Stanley Tucci, but do not pop the disc in while expecting a whole lot.