(director/writer: James DeMonaco; cinematographer: Anastas N. Michos; editor: Keith Fraase; music:Nathan Whitehead; cast: Madelyn Cline (Sophia Larocca).Frank Grillo (Vincent Dedea), Lucius Hoyos (Anthony), Naomi Watts (Marie Dedea), Jonah Hauer-King (Christian), Steve Lipman (Santo Saggese), River Alexander (Dov), Chase Vacnin (Albie), Raquel Castro (Anna Tocci), Method Man (Louis), Bobby Cannavale (Frank Larocca); Runtime: 80; MPAA Rating: R; producers; Jason Blum, Sebastien K. Lemercier: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment/Netflix; 2021)

“It gets just about everything wrong and then some.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The contrived coming-of-age comedy/drama by James DeMonaco(“The Purge”/”Staten Island”) is a dud, it gets just about everything wrong and then some. It’s basically a suck-up film to Stallone’s third one, and to boot an incredibly stupid film.

It’s a tale about a semi-dysfunctional family, about growing up as an Italian American on Staten Island,  about the borough’s obsession with the film character Rocky Balboa, and that four members of the featured Italian family make a self-discovery over the course of a significant single night on May 28 (Memorial Day) in 1982.

On that spring night Sylvester Stallone’s sequel, Rocky III, is opening in the local theaters. As a result the following three storylines take place: Firstly, everyone in Staten Island is clamoring for this film. It has gotten the attention of Tony (Lucius Hoyos). The lovesick teenager and his dream girl Sophia (Madelyn Cline) share a love for Rocky, which gives him a chance of scoring with her. But Sophia’s current boyfriend Santo (Steve Lipman) is someone who won’t let her go and is a bully. And of all things, Santo calls Rocky Balboa “a pussy” in the crowded movie theater and makes it seem as if Tony said it. This may spell trouble for Tony and his two pals (River Alexander and Chase Vacnin) who are at the theater for the 4:30 pm showing. Secondly, Vincent (Frank Grillo), Tony’s struggling restaurant owner father, prepares for Sophia’s Sweet 16 at his place while going at it with her father, Frank (Bobby Cannavale), his obnoxious former high school rival. The third storyline has Tony’s mom Marie (Naomi Watts) conflicted over the eldest son, Christian (Jonah Hauer-King), and his gayness, and when he comes out she says: “I just want you to be happy.”

Nothing about this film caught my interest, even though the veteran actors are trying to make it work they can’t seem to get a handle on it. As for the young amateur actors, they can’t act and this will undoubtedly be the last time we will see them onscreen. It’s really hard to say anything good about the film, but give me time I’m still thinking. Hey, I got it, the soundtrack is peppy, filled with hits from the period like Kiss’s “Lick It Up.”

REVIEWED ON 12/26/2021  GRADE: D