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Homie Spumoni DVD Review

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Movie & DVD Details

Director: Mike Cerrone / Writers: Mike Cerrone, Steve Cerrone, Glenn Ciano

Cast: Donald Faison (Renato Pollina/Leroy), Jamie Lynn Sigler (Alli Butterman), Whoopi Goldberg (Thelma), Paul Mooney (George), Joey Fatone (Buddy), Tony Rock (Dana), Lina Giornofelice (Maria Pollina), Alvaro D'Antonio (Enzo Pollina), Kira Clavell (Nipp Su), Linda Kash (Mirna Butterman), Jason Schombing (Dr. Edward Elliott Finkelstein), Kathleen Laskey (Agnes), Rhona Shekter (Shirley), Tony Nappo (Uncle Nicky Pollina)

DVD Debut: October 9, 2007 / Running Time: 85 Minutes / Rating: R

2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen / Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, Portuguese)
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese; Closed Captioned
Suggested Retail Price: $19.98 (Reduced from $24.98)
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9); Black Keepcase

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So frequently do young actors transition from television to the big screen that you'd expect the entire cast of "Scrubs", one of TV's most acclaimed and longest-running comedies, to be movie stars by now. Six years since their series began, that hasn't happened. Zach Braff seemed destined for leading man status after 2004's Garden State -- which he wrote, directed, and headlined -- won major acclaim and turned a considerable profit. But his subsequent efforts have hardly gained notice. Sarah Chalke and Judy Reyes haven't broken out past direct-to-video, telemovie, and release limbo indie fare. Veteran John C. McGinley has merely maintained his status as supporting actor in often high-profile (and lately, bad) films. Then there's Donald Faison, whose 15-year-career of bouncing from reputable teen movie to teen TV show would seem to get a boost from playing the confident surgeon and goofy sidekick to Braff's lead. Alas, he too has only dabbled in off-radar and direct-to-video projects. Both of those labels apply to Homie Spumoni, which debuted on DVD earlier this month with little fanfare and no prior theatrical run.

In Homie Spumoni, Faison and co-star Jamie Lynn Sigler ("The Sopranos") swap the characteristics of their most famous TV personas. He's got an Italian family, while she works at a hospital. As Faison is the lead,
we get backstory on his African-American character, Renato, in a subtitled opening sequence. As an infant in 1979, he drifted down the Adige River in a basket la Moses. He was picked up by a married Italian couple and adopted as their own when the police could shed no light on his origins. Shortly after, the couple (Lina Giornofelice, Alvaro D'Antonio) moved to the United States, where they opened a delicatessen and raised Renato like a normal Italian immigrant boy.

Today, his darker skin color and unique features having somehow slipped by him and anyone he's ever encountered, grown-up Renato loves spaghetti, Dean Martin, and working in Enzo's Deli. At his second job, at the dog pound, he meets Alli Butterman (Sigler), a young Jewish nurse who takes a liking to him. Their interfaith relationship is the initial focus, until the expected bombshell comes along. Renato's birth parents Thelma (Whoopi Goldberg) and George (Paul Mooney) show up, shocking him with the news that he is not Italian but black, he was adopted, and was originally named Leroy.

She (Jamie Lynn Sigler) is Jewish and he (Donald Faison) is "Italian"... what an hilarious premise for romantic comedy! Joey Fatone's character Buddy plays Renato's best friend who sits in his car even at the beach for reasons that are later made clear.

With proper encouragement, Renato/Leroy goes "home" to his black family, where he adjusts to a new way of life and a brother (Tony Rock). The middle third of the film focuses on the culture shock our lead experiences and embraces, as he is introduced to basketball, soul food, and black parties. On the side throughout is Renato's Italian-American friend Buddy (Joey Fatone of *NSync), after whom he named a sandwich, and his new Japanese love interest Nipp Su (Kira Clavell). Let there be no doubt that Renato's relationship with Alli return to the spotlight by the short movie's conclusion.

It's pretty easy to see why, in spite of some recognizable cast members (including an Oscar winner) and two accomplished performers in the lead roles, Homie Spumoni wasn't treated to theatrical release. The movie just isn't very good. It's an understatement to call the movie fueled by ethnic humor. Nearly every effort at comedy relies on culture clashes or stereotypes. It's not just the juxtaposition that's obvious from the cover. The Italian-American and African-American lifestyles are the most depicted and mined for humor, but Jews, Asians, and the Irish are all the butt of jokes as well.

There's nothing wrong with that if it's funny and relevant, but Homie is neither. Instead, the movie is populated by stupid characters who all possess outmoded prejudices. "All in the Family", it's not. The feeble Homie doesn't push bounds with edginess; one never really feels like political correctness is threatened even as ethnic slurs of all kinds are readily tossed about.

Dana (Tony Rock, real-life brother of Chris) tries to school the newly-dubbed Leroy on how to be black. Yes, that's none other than Oscar winner Whoopi Goldberg. What's she doing in the land of direct-to-video fare, aside from adding a bit of heart?

More troubling than the misguided racial and cultural humor is the fact that Homie is just ill-conceived all-around. Early on, Renato sings and dances to an audience of caged canines. Though Faison has done singing and dancing on "Scrubs", he's shot completely from the back, suggesting the world's most half-assed use of a double or the stingiest way to avoid a reshoot. There are more such discrepancies to be found, like why is Renato clad in colorful African garb for much of the film's second half? Or why the movie keeps citing that Renato's been away for "22 years" -- is it taking place in 2001 or did the filmmakers just flunk simple math? Together, they paint the film as being unprofessional as well as unfunny.

Amidst the spotty humor, which turns to fart jokes in the few moments the film is neither amusing nor offending cultures, is a very tiny bit of heart that's conveyed in Renato's two sets of parents, mostly due to Goldberg and the unknowns playing the Italians.
Faison is likable enough in the lead role and Tony Rock does a little more the poor man's version of his brother Chris's shtick. One can't praise writer-director Mike Cerrone (who collaborated with the Farrelly brothers on the My, Myself & Irene script) and his fellow scribes Steve Cerrone (his brother) and rookie Glenn Ciano for their ingenuity or tact. But the trio does manage to inject some realism into the depictions, especially in the tough-talking Italian-American universe they seem familiar with.


Homie Spumoni comes to DVD in presumably its intended widescreen aspect ratio of 2.35:1, enhanced for 16x9 displays. It's clear that the movie doesn't have the highest production values; there is more grain than you'd find on a big studio effort and the picture seems a little out of focus or distorted at some points. On the whole, though, it's sufficiently clean and sharp and won't trouble the typical DVD viewer.

Delivering an active and appropriate aural experience, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is more praiseworthy and less plagued by issues.

Tony Rock, Paul Mooney, and Joey Fatone place their orders at Roscoe's House of Chicken 'n Waffles in "Deep Fried & Covered in Sugar." Donald Faison laughs and addresses the camera plenty of times in the Gag Reel. The main menu backs up the DVD cover's decision to go with Italian-flavored artwork, complete with appropriate music accompaniment.


There are just two bonus features found here. "Deep Fried & Covered in Sugar" (12:47) follows Tony Rock, Joey Fatone, and Paul Mooney to Roscoe's House of Chicken n' Waffles, where they talk with patrons and
then among themselves about the movie's title, race, and food. I'm not sure what we're supposed to get out of it, but whatever it is, I don't think I did.

The other inclusion is a Gag Reel (3:30) which provides outtakes from most of the leading actors. It supports my theory that bloopers are funnier on funny movies, as there are no real laughs to be had here.

Playing at the start of the disc are previews for the awful-looking Street Stars Collection, New Line's sequel Rush Hour 3, and The Last Stand (a dramedy about stand-up comedians, not to be confused with the most recent X-Men sequel).

The menus feature loud still artwork, with the Main Menu accompanied by an Italian-sounding score excerpt. As far as packaging is concerned, the lack of an in-case insert is offset by disc art that deliciously resembles a pizza pie.

Donald Faison and Jamie Lynn Sigler take their bows with absolutely no chance of them becoming better associated with these roles than Chris Turk and Meadow Soprano. Renato/Leroy could call this shot "My two dads" as his adoptive Italian father (Alvaro D'Antonio) and biological black father (Paul Mooney) share a chat.


Some movies challenge the reputation of direct-to-video fare and raise the question of just why a theatrical release wasn't given. Based on its charismatic leading man and silly but semi-promising premise, I hoped that Homie Spumoni would be one of those. It wasn't. This lowbrow ethnic comedy isn't merely short on laughs, it's also lacking in taste, intelligence, and technical competence. Warner's DVD provides satisfactory picture and sound but only two disposable extras. With sufficiently low expectations and an appreciation for the cast, Homie is the type of thing that could almost provide an entertaining rental. That's the most I can advise for this disappointment.

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Kickin' It Old Skool The TV Set Hot Fuzz Knocked Up (2-Disc Collector's Edition) Wild Hogs Blades of Glory
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Reviewed October 18, 2007.

Text copyright 2007 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2007 R-Caro Productions, Saint Aire Productions, and Warner Home Video. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.