Monday, October 23, 2006

Review by Sombrero Grande

Pizza is a refreshing break from the usual fare Hollywood dishes up, but it’s still not terribly satisfying.

In the vein of Ghost World, Pizza is a sort of anti-romantic comedy, coming-of-age story, pairing up two misfits for an adventure out into a world that just doesn’t quite seem to fit them. Matt (Ethan Embry) is a 30-year-old pizza delivery boy--err, man--who delivers the movie’s namesake to the 18th birthday party of overweight, glasses-clad Cara-Ethel (Kylie Sparks) only to discover that no one else showed up. Eager to flee her doting mother and annoying little brother, Cara-Ethel joins Matt on the rest of his runs for the night, leading up to the moment at dawn when she finally turns 18.

The lead characters are likeable and believable yet somehow their adventures traveling house-to-house never truly allow them to shine. The dialogue and situations are often awkward, sometimes leaving whole scenes (such as Cara’s impromptu audition for a drama teacher) feeling too scripted and inconsequential to warrant so much time and attention.

Pizza is a low-budget film, and though it shows it’s not as overt as it could have been, like in, say, Film Geek. The film’s casual cinematography matches the tone of its subject matter.

The acting is pretty decent all around. Though certain unnatural-sounding lines of dialogue sabotage a few moments along the way, on the whole the acting comes across as easily believable, something that often eludes such independent efforts.

Cara has a line about wanting to act but never in Hollywood because that’s “for anorexics.” Sparks is a joy to watch in Pizza but I fear, like the kid who was so great playing Thurman Merman in Bad Santa, I can’t really picture her in very many other movie roles. Watching Sparks really makes for a refreshing movie experience as it’s so rare to see someone as talented and un-Hollywood in her appearance being given the lead role in a film.

Something else refreshing about Pizza is that the story never seems to go in the direction you’re expecting. Each pizza delivery brings something unexpected, but unfortunately, and just like in real life, it’s not always something very dramatic or interesting.

Pizza has been delivered to DVD with two sides: a funny and informative commentary by writer/director Mark Christopher (54) and producer Howard Gertler and a rather ingenious feature entitled “A Slice of Pizza.” “A Slice of Pizza” is sort of like a Cliffs Notes version of the feature-length commentary that features a mere handful of scenes and has Christopher’s voiceover discussing a few key interesting points in each. “Slice” is a great idea for those viewers who lack the patience to rewatch the entire movie to listen to the commentary, or for directors who don’t have enough to say about their film to last its duration (and we all know who those directors are). I’d love to see a feature like “Slice” incorporated into other DVD releases in the future.

For anyone who’s tired of the same ol’ cookie cutter Hollywood recipes, consider Pizza for your next cinematic indulgence. Just don’t be surprised if it doesn’t leave you completely fulfilled.


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