If Pizza were an actual pizza, it would be half-pineapple, half-broccoli. At times, Mark Christopher’s coming-of-age comedy is quirkily saccharine, at others good-for-you sophistic. And for most of its already-thin 80-minute running time, it’s also in need of some of the post-production slicing and dicing Harvey Weinstein reportedly carried out on the director’s debut 54. Without any guests at her 18th birthday party (save for her temporarily blind mom, played by Julie Hagerty with gauze over her eyes), heavyset social outcast Cara-Ethyl (Kylie Sparks)—named after Fame’s Irene Cara and I Love Lucy’s Ethyl Mertz—is saved from her loneliness when hunky pizza delivery guy Matt (Ethan Embry) agrees to let her tag along on his evening routes. A self-christened “pizza king” who, afraid of growing up like his old friends, now lives with immature, partying twentysomethings, Matt is a wannabe liberal activist unable to commit to anything other than the titular food, which he claims “provides for all needs.” Matt and Cara-Ethyl form an eccentric pair, and their nocturnal suburban odyssey is a journey toward pretense-dissolving self-realization in which, through a series of alternately kooky and schmaltzy incidents, Cara-Ethyl gains confidence and Matt confronts his stunted maturity. As sincere as Sparks and Embry may be, however, their rapport never transcends the contrivances of their story, which not only fails to posit a convincing motivation for Matt’s nurturing and mentoring of Cara-Ethyl, but seems incapable of maintaining a consistent (or even natural) tone—one moment the odd couple are sweetly dancing at a club, the next Cara-Ethyl is perplexingly picking up a beauty’s (Alexis Dziena) hairball from the floor of a pizza parlor and, shortly thereafter, excruciatingly affecting hip-hop patois (“Aight, biatch?” Um, not really). And when the grainy, HD-shot Pizza isn’t assuming an odd, unfunny tone, it’s indulging in goofy pizza pie transitional graphics, sentimental metaphors (culminating in a climactic slice being tossed, in slow-motion, out of a moving vehicle), and positing a bizarro world in which popular kids keep handy a mirror lined with sugar just in case the opportunity arises to trick nerds into snorting fake cocaine.
Score:Cast: Ethan Embry, Kylie Sparks, Julie Hagerty, Judah Friedlander, Mary Birdsong, Martin Campetta, Alexis Dziena, Jesse McCartney Director: Mark Christopher Screenwriter: Mark Christopher Distributor: IFC Films Running Time: 80 min Rating: PG-13 Year: 2005 Buy: Video