Review: Donald Petrie fails to recreate ‘Mystic Pizza’ recipe with romantic comedy ‘Little Italy’

Hayden Christensen and Emma Roberts in the film "Little Italy."

From Donald Petrie, director of the 1988 rom-com classic “Mystic Pizza” starring Julia Roberts, comes a new romance starring Julia’s niece, Emma, with pizza in a large supporting role. But “Little Italy” is a film that’s more about cartoonish cultural stereotypes than finding love.

Leo (Hayden Christensen) and Nikki (Roberts) grew up as best friends and heirs to the successful pizzeria operated by their two families. But a rift during a local pizza contest drives a wedge between their fathers, dividing the pizzeria along family lines. Nikki takes off for culinary school in London, returning five years later to renew her visa. But as soon as she tastes the sauce made by her nonna Franca (Andrea Martin) and runs into her longtime crush Leo, things are suddenly up in the air.

The conflict — should she stay or should she go? — is rather uninteresting, and the film overcompensates with wildly outdated cultural stereotypes about Italian New Yorkers, Indian folks, gay people and others, which is interesting only considering the film is written by Steve Galluccio and Vinay Virmani, Canadians of Italian and Indian descent, respectively.

Despite an energetic supporting cast, including Martin, Alyssa Milano, Danny Aiello and Garry Basaraba, the two leads sleepwalk through this limp and formulaic endeavor. Christensen seems barely able to keep his eyes open; you’ll likely feel the same way.



‘Little Italy’

Rated: R, for some sexual references

Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes

Playing: Starts Friday, Laemmle Royal, West Los Angeles