Today sees the release of two New York comedies: an urban Date Night for the suburban cineplex, and this suburban family fracas for the Fox Tower. It screened last night for AP Kryza, who reviews it here.

City Island


WW Critic's Score: 61

If Tyler Perry were an Italian-American from the Bronx, his movies might look a lot like City Island. The film tells the story of the Rizzos, a dysfunctional working-class family full of secrets and quirk. It's a fairly harmless, often charming little comedy that barely skirts melodrama by employing the screwball attitude of the "Golden Age of Cinema," even when things get messed up to the point that you half-expect Jerry Springer to pop in and instigate a fight.

Mom Joyce (Julianna Margulies) is a bored receptionist with unmet urges. Son Vince Jr. (Ezra Miller) is a wise-ass who keeps skipping school to foster an addiction to Internet porn and a fetish for feeding plus-sized ladies. Daughter Vivian (Dominik García-Lorido) has lost her college scholarship and is earning tuition (and boob job money) at a seedy strip club that kind of resembles Devil's Point.

Then there's Vince (Andy Garcia), the film's obvious main character because he has more than one problem. A prison guard, Vince notices his long-lost love child Tony (Steven Strait) behind bars and arranges to bring him home to live in his shed, without revealing their relationship. He then lets Tony in on his darkest secret: Vince is taking acting classes, with dreams of becoming a movie star, and lying to his wife about it for fear of emasculation.

How should this gaggle of cartoon characters deal with all the deception floating around them? The way any one-dimensional Italian would. They eat, and they yell at each other. A lot. Joyce thinks Vince is balling his acting-class partner Emily Mortimer? Bawl him out for it. Vince Jr. notices his sister's increased cup size at the dinner table? "Go to your room, yous!" There are countless interjections of "Bah!" and "C'mon!" and "Respect ya motha!" tossed around.

Fortunately, there's also considerable heart, which sets City Island above other family dramas of the Big Fat Greek Wedding variety. Garcia seems to be having a good time playing Al Pacino, yanking his hair and giving the bug eyes, while Margulies makes a nice transition from ER nurse to cougar, putting passion into her circumscribed role as a frustrated spouse.

Looking for heavy drama? Fuhgettaboutit! Director Raymond De Felitta knows his genre: the "family in crisis but we know everything will be fine because they're goofy" movie. He should be commended for not taking the easy path of exploiting the Rizzos' troubles for cheap tears. Instead, he plays damn near every painful scene for chuckles. Not belly laughs or knee slaps, but chuckles, and he's often successful. Everybody can identify with a lovably fucked-up family, and De Felitta, like his contemporary Perry, knows that his audience – in this case older white folks – will lap it up in all its inoffensive glory. PG-13.

City Island opens today at Fox Tower.