The story of Rocco (Frank Lotito) as he struggles to choose between the love of his life, Katie (Holly Valance), and his doting, over protective Italian mother (Carmelina Di Guglielmo). 

1.5
Overcooked Aussie rom-com skimps on laughs.

Conceivably there are one or more immature, molly-coddled 35-year-old guys out there who struggle with the prospect of leaving home and their over-protective Italian mothers.

But why would anyone pay hard-earned dollars to watch a romantic comedy built around a wildly exaggerated, fictional version of such a stunted character?

A pity no one put that question to Frank Lotito before he wrote, produced and starred in Big Mamma’s Boy, a cliché-riddled farce that’s sorely lacking in wit, charm and intelligence.

Although it’s set in the present-day in Melbourne’s suburbs, the film’s sensibility seems to be a throwback to the mores and attitudes of a section of what used to be known as 'new Australians’ of 40 or 50 years ago.

Lotito plays Rocco Pileggi, a successful real estate agent who still lives with his caricatured smother-mother Teresa (Carmelina Di Guglielmo) and dotty grandfather Nonno (Osvaldo Maione).

The script suggests he can’t bring himself to leave the nest, mostly because that would mortify his doting, widowed ma, but also because he’s so lazy that even the most basic domestic chores are beyond him.

Lamely maintaining to workmates that 'if I brought a girl home I’d have to marry her," Rocco entertains his lady friends in vacant houses which he’s selling. After meeting cute Katie (Holly Valance) in a bar, he invites her to one such house, claiming it’s his, but just as they’re canoodling he has to rush home in response to calls from his worried mother. Yeah, right.

The next day it turns out Katie is the new sales person at his real estate office, setting up an initial frostiness and rivalry between them. Since this film telegraphs its intentions at every turn, you just know Rocco and Katie will eventually hook up, despite several obstacles including his mother arranging to import Sicilian hottie Maria (Pia Miller), whom she introduces as Rocco’s new fiancée.

At the risk of sounding sexist, I think many blokes, if placed in Rocco’s position, would say 'arrivederci’ to Katie and get it on with Maria, even if (as the script says) she’s his second cousin.

The level of 'humour’ is often pitched very low, as when Rocco farts repeatedly after eating curry, his mother and grandfather mistakenly think he’s gay, and a neighbour accuses him of being a 'poofter" as he learns how to iron.

A stand-up comedian, Lotito’s efforts here as actor and writer underline the vast gulf between getting up on stage and anchoring a movie. He has a likable, engaging personality and a good singing voice but little screen presence.

Di Guglielmo’s antics as the mother, such as pretending to fall ill when Rocco does leave home and fainting when she thinks he’s gay, are in keeping with the film’s inane, over-the-top tone.

Valance isn’t asked to do a lot as the love interest, except look, at various times, bemused, peeved and lovey-dovey.

Among the other clichéd characters, Maria Venuti is a neighbour who teaches him how to vacuum, brew coffee, make beds and other rudimentary skills to the strains of the theme song from Rocky. George Kapiniaris is Rocco’s boss, a married man who gets vicarious thrills from discussing his romantic exploits.

As the grandfather, Maione’s contributions are chiefly walking around without his pants and speaking in epithets: 'Bastard", 'Homosexual", 'Prostitute."

Director Franco di Chiera, whose background is in telemovies and TV documentaries including episodes of SBS’s Who Do You Think You Are?, does a pedestrian job with the second-rate material.

To be fair, there was a smattering of laughs from some members of the preview audience, perhaps from those with an Italian (or Greek) background who could identify with the mamma, if not the son.

I counted five or six walkouts and had to fight the urge to join them.

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Details

PG
1 hour 38 min
In Cinemas 28 July 2011,
Wed, 11/30/2011 - 11

Genres