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Movie Reviews : ‘Mystic Pizza’ Suffers a Serious Case of the Cutes

“Mystic Pizza” (selected theaters) is not, as you might imagine, a pizza with reincarnated anchovies and astral pepperoni.

Actually, it’s the culinary joy of Mystic, Conn., a real-life New England town of spectacular seaside vistas. There, a gourmet pie is concocted by Leona (Conchata Ferrell), the pugnacious owner of the Slice of Heaven, and served by her three irrepressible Portuguese-American waitresses, Daisy and Kat Araujo (Julia Roberts and Annabeth Gish) and Jojo Barboza (Lili Taylor.)

Ah, Daisy! Ah, Kat! Ah, pretty little Jojo! Ah, you bouncing, beauteous bachelorettes on the loose! Where have we seen this trio before? A fiery sexpot, a shy intellectual and a kooky kidder? Three girls dreaming their dreams, and breaking their hearts in search of the best of everything: the perfect man, the perfect friendship, the perfect future? Even, as here, perfect pizza?

“Mystic Pizza” follows the usual form, without adding much--beyond the charming Connecticut locations and the increasingly dubious suspense of wondering whether the local TV restaurant critic will drop in to sample the house special.

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Otherwise, unsurprisingly, sexpot Daisy gets involved with a rich, disturbed young wastrel (Adam Storke), and Kat with a weak intellectual (William Moses).

Beyond some well-observed sibling interaction, the mutual effort of four writers is mutually uninspired. Whoever wrote the episodes between hot-to-trot Jojo and her balky boyfriend Bill (Vincent D’Onofrio) should be ashamed. They’ve stranded a fetching young actress and an intense young actor on the shoals of teen-movie slapstick smut.

On the other hand, Donald Petrie, the first-time director, has a lively time moving his camera and cast around Mystic. And the actresses themselves supply the best inducement for watching this unexceptional, fitfully cute movie.

Gish is subtle, Taylor goofy and mercurial. Best of them is Julia Roberts, who suffered through “Satisfaction,” but here has a minor triumph as Daisy. Roberts, the younger sister of actor Eric, shows a priceless movie quality: a real sense of danger and unpredictability. When she bemusedly lectures her sister or sizes up Adam Storke in the local bar, she begins generating her own smoky tension: the livid fire of a small-town belle, blazing up high against the possibility of inevitable small-town entropy or eclipse.

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