By Richard Winters
My Rating: 3 out of 10
4-Word Review: He can’t stop eating.
When her cousin dies at the age of 39 from being overweight Antoinette (Anne Bancroft) puts pressure on her brother Dom (Dom DeLuise) to work on losing some weight of his own. Dom tries but his lifelong obsession with food cannot be curbed. He ties a chain around the cupboards in his kitchen so he can’t get at the food inside and then has his brother Frankie (Ron Carey) hide the key. He even joins a club called the Chubby Checkers who are on-call at all hours to come to his home and counsel him should his willpower falter and yet it does no good until he meets Lydi (Candice Azzara) and her love for him helps him find strength.
This was Bancroft’s one-and-only foray behind the camera and unfortunately it’s a jumbled misguided mess that seems like a comedy at some points only to quickly turnover into a hard wrought drama the next. I enjoyed the recreation of the extended Italian family living in the New York, which was right on-target particularly the way they lean on each other in times of need while also vigorously fighting amongst themselves at other points. I also appreciated how religion is shown playing an important part in their lives particularly the crosses and pictures of Christ seen in almost every room even the bathroom. I’m not a religious person myself, but the film still helps the viewer understand and appreciate how spirituality can play a vital role to those whose lives seem empty and challenging otherwise.
The comical moments, or at least when they manage to randomly pop-up, aren’t bad either with the scene involving the two brothers attacking each other at different times while using the same knife being the best. DeLuise gives an excellent and highly underrated performance. The scene where he reads greeting cards out loud while constantly breaking into sobs is hilarious as is his first awkward meeting with Lydia. Unfortunately Dom became much more rotund later in his life and by comparison seems almost thin here.
The film gives the viewer a nice, sensitive portal to how tough fighting the urge to eat must be for those who are fat and manages to nicely expose the human side of the issue without ever mocking them. Bancroft does her emotional drama bit, from which she is best known for, quite well, but I felt the material really didn’t call for it and it becomes almost over-the-top. The pacing is also off and the story is never compelling despite the earnest efforts of its cast. It all would’ve played out better had it stuck firmly to the comical angle and the fact that it doesn’t really hurts it.
My Rating: 3 out of 10
Released: February 1, 1980
Runtime: 1Hour 33Minutes
Director: Anne Bancroft
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Available: DVD (Out-of-Print/Anchor Bay)