By Richie Nakano | Image courtesy Firsttake Entertainment, Art by ChefsFeed

I was out the other night, two (five?) drinks in, when a commotion erupted at the other end of the bar. A customer and a bartender were shouting at each other over a song by The Weeknd. Voices and tensions grew louder and more intense until the bartender reached behind the bar and produced a…soccer ball.

Next thing you know, the entire crowd spilled outside in the pouring rain to watch as the bartender shot soccer balls at the guest, who was wearing a cocktail dress. Anytime the bartender scored, the guest had to take a shot of tequila, and vice versa for when he missed. 11 tequila shots later, everyone trooped back inside, laughing and cheerful, and the bartender and guest tenderly embraced in the mud hole they had just created. Two days later, four of the soccer contest spectators died of pneumonia. 

OK, none of that actually happened, although it was a prominent scene in the worst movie I have ever seen in my life, Little Italy. Also, no one died, although a person-sized part of my dignity and overall will to live did escape my body during the viewing.  

Little Italy is a 90’s style rom-com THAT CAME OUT THIS YEAR starring Hayden Christensen in the first movie I’ve seen him in since Revenge of the Sith. Remember those? The Star Wars Prequels? Were we ever so young? HC couldn’t act then, and he still can’t act now, although he does pull a Jersey Shore-adjacent “Ayyyyy I’m WALKIN’ heah” accent in this movie for his character Leo, which is really weird because the movie takes place in the New York City of film and television, Toronto. Emma Roberts plays Nikki, that girl in the cocktail dress, who looks exactly like Amanda Peet but is Julia Roberts’s niece. Rounding out the cast is Alyssa Milano, Danny Aiello (in his second, and decidedly worst pizza movie) and that lady who played Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.  

The premise: two families run a pizza shop, with one family contributing an amazing crust, while the other produces a sublime pizza sauce (What, no cheese family? Get outta heeeeaah). One day—cue claps of forboding thunder—there’s a falling out, so they do what any normal mortal enemies would do: they split the business and open pizza shops right next door to each other.

So far, yes, this a movie painted with the broad cultural brushstrokes of a Super Mario game, but it’s actually much, much worse than that. There’s Jogi, the Indian pizza delivery boy who gets called Slum Dog and Aladdin in the movie’s first half. There’s also Jessie, an Indian woman who works in the other pizza shop, who calls Jogi a “Mumbai mosquito” and puts curry powder in her rival’s pizza sauce. And let’s not forget Luigi, the Asian bar owner who identifies as Italian! Later in the film, after he reveals he is gay, he immediately grabs someone’s ass and says, “That’s how Chinese people hug.” So.  

The setting moves to London, where Nikki is in culinary school “learning how to cook, like four Michelin Stars cook.” Her instructor is Chef Corinne—who Nikki describes as “Gordon Ramsay, only prettier,” and who says shit like “Oil is a garnish. You’ve used so much the US army will invade the plate.” Chef Corinne gets mad at a student and has them hold bread up to their ears and say, “I’m a moron sandwich,” which is a real, actual Gordon Ramsay meme. If in 2018 you are pulling the jokes in your pizza screenplay from Gordon Ramsay memes it is time to close the computer, pack a bag, and go on a very long, very secluded hike. Think “Wild,” but minus the heroin and stuff.

The hook: Chef Corinne is opening a “millennial-friendly restaurant” and wants Nikki to be the chef, so Nikki has to go back to Toronto to sort out visas. Her first night home is the aforementioned tequila-soaked shoot-out with Anakin-Leo.  

The movie doesn’t make much more sense from here, but it can more or less be summarized like this: Leo The Ladies Man starts to see Nikki in a new light. They start to fall in love but also the Grandpa and Grandma from each opposing pizza shops fall in love too? Everything eventually comes to a head when Nikki and Leo compete to see which pizza shop serves the best pizza. Leo wins, but realizes it’s only because saucy Nikki has swapped her sauce for his. Pour out one small ladle for feminism, fam. After a very long and extremely bizarre scene at a TSA checkpoint, they decide to stay together and open a pizza shop. The grandparents get married and everyone lives happily ever after. Except for the people I imagined who died of pneumonia.

You may perhaps be thinking, “Ayyyyy, lighten up paisan! Pizza movies are like sex, even when they’re bad they’re still good! Bada-bing!” But even once you get past the convoluted yet cliché plot, the mild to overt racism, the non-stop double entendres, the movie just doesn’t make any fucking sense. Let me break it down for you.

Production Choices

Literally every scene is bathed in red and green, and the word “mangia” is said so many times that my dogs learn how to pronounce it. Despite the movie being shot in the actual city of Toronto, there are lots and lots of American flags in the movie. Hayden Christensen looks like a dude wearing a Hayden Christensen mask. I know that’s not nice. The words “Little Italy” are said 70 times in the movie. Again, is Hayden Christensen borrowing another person’s eyeballs? I’m just saying.

There’s a date montage, during which they buy shirts with slogans like “Save a stallion, ride an Italian.” Chef Corinne FaceTimes Nikki and says, “Is that penis more pressing than my menu?”

The Food

Most of the pizza in this movie looks…fine. Everyone is always stretching dough or tasting sauce or yelling. They bad mouth square pizza, and everyone is always mentioning milennials. At one point Nikki says, “Kale, ever heard of it pizza boy?” Everyone is always drinking Peroni, or that other traditional Italian beverage, Starbucks caramel lattes. Leo has a pizza oven in his apartment. He makes a smoked gouda, mushroom, prosciutto and arugula pizza, that gets a magical touch from Nikki’s addition of figs “to cut through the gouda and balance the flavors.” The following lines are basically “the figs, they give it the perfect amount of sweetness” and “I love your pizza.” “OUR pizza.” Then they go up to Leo’s rooftop garden (!) where the Cute Garden Ideas section on Pinterest has come to die, and he says: “I grow all my fresh ingredients up here,” and I actually let out a yell.

Cut to the next scene, where Nikki, flush with inspiration, is working on a menu (the one that is maybe not as pressing as the penis). It has been reprinted exactly as written below:

Entrees:

Lobster Cherve: This raw, flavorful appetizer combines lobster, leche de tigre and Asian pear paired with Chef Nikki’s innovated puffed squid ink

Beets: Reimaged Beet Salad - beets with straciatella cheese, sumac, salsa verde and almond milk poured table side

As I try to process what reimaged beets and innovated puffed squid ink are, or what the experience of getting almond milk poured on a salad would be like, she’s interrupted by Leo climbing a ladder up to her window to deliver her a heart-shaped kale pizza. I pause the movie and take my dogs on a very tranquil two-hour walk.

Moving on. There’s eggplant pizza, pizza made into some sort of cone, a melon and prosciutto pizza, and at one point Nikki uses a blowtorch on her crust. Upon closer inspection while pausing a frame, I realize the pizza ovens aren’t even on; there’s a whole scene that takes place directly in front of the control panel, and that fucker is definitely off. Then, Nikki cuts her pizza using scissors because authenticity. 

Shrug Emoji

There’s a sabotage scene where marijuana is swapped for oregano and it makes people dance on tables, then the cops come and arrest everyone, but not before a female cop gropes the hell out of Leo.

There’s a shit-talking contest that happens regularly between the dads? They hate each other so much that despite operating restaurants five feet apart, they choose to go to a bar and sling one-liners at each other. Should more people do this?

A funeral director with a foot fetish shows up out of nowhere to creepily hit on Nikki, and wow, way to kink-shame, guys! The poor idiot gets one scene where he smells a shoe then is never seen again.

Both families go to an Indian restaurant that the Grandma “found on Yelp.”

There are recurring references to hitting a person over the head with a prosciutto. Doing this would cause massive head trauma and paralysis.

At the pizza contest, there’s a swimsuit contest going on in the background. 

In the end, everyone is happy, and there’s a reference to Beyoncé and Jay-Z. Then, as a final fuck you to the audience, the movie reveals that the Grandma is PREGNANT, as the two Indian characters, in full on traditional Indian formal wear dance around in the background. Then everyone eats dessert pizza and in the outtakes, there’s a joke about necrophilia.

 

This movie is not so bad it's good—it's just bad, and no one should see it ever. Except for me, who did it for you.

Thank you for coming to my TED talk.

 

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