Everybody Wants to Be Italian is the latest in the sub-subgenre of ethnic romantic comedy. The comparisons to My Big Fat Greek Wedding are inevitable, of course, and this particular film surely straddles the line between “romp” and “zany,” and maybe even deserves that most hallowed of accolades: “zany romp.” Americans especially love to live in this genre’s world as it has the capacity to make them forget the greater cultural anxieties that exist between different ethnic groups. They can vicariously make the jokes they always wanted but never could.
In the case of Everybody, ethnicity is mostly gimmick. This could have been the entire point of the film if Jason Todd Ipson let it be. While the Italian characters pay homage to their culture and talk about Italians being the best lovers, the device here is that neither of the central characters (Jake and Marisa) is Italian. Both are only pretending to be for the sake of the other. Unfortunately, this chance to explore the gap between perceived and actual cultural realities is never tapped. Cultural difference is not the only hurdle being faced: Jake is still in love with his ex, despite the fact she has been married with children for eight years now. Every year on their anniversary Jake proposes to her, much to the chagrin of his ex’s husband. He even goes so far as to still call his ex his girlfriend to potential mate, Marisa (Jake considers the fact that she is married as just one of the ups and downs of any relationship). Neither issue ends up hampering their courtship, of course—they’re just used to jerk the plot along.
Everybody could be better if it spent more time exploring the various lies the characters tell and obsessions they have for the sake of that ultimate “truth” and “freedom”: love. And it’s funny, not so much when it drones about Italian tradition in the face of post-ethnic luvin’, but when it explores the ridiculous contingencies of what makes love work, the little quirks that doom a relationship to failure (or success) from the beginning. But instead it follows closely the standard storyline of “relationship overcomes initial odds, then guy loses girl, therefore guy fights for girl to get her back,” and whenever Jake goes for a run, ostensibly to contemplate his love life, the typical guitar driven singer-songwriter music is cued (no joke: this happens three times). In the end, these are the sort of rom-com seams the movie can’t hide and make it just another genre piece.