Admittedly, I’ve never attended any of my high school reunions. I imagine if I did, would I still be holding on to some old grudges or pursuing crushes that happened 35 years ago. This idea is a theme in the Italian comedy import, D.N.A. – Definitely Not Appropriate, from writers/directors/stars Lillo & Greg (Pasquale Petrolo, Claudio Gregori).
D.N.A. is the story of a pair of schoolmates, whose paths cross long after their elementary school days. Ezechiele (Claudio Gregori) was a bookish and nerdy child—the bullied—and Nando (Pasquale Petrolo) was…well, the bully. After a few decades, not much as changed for the duo. Ezechiele is a geneticist, who is bullied at work, also by the students he teaches at university, and by his wife (Anna Foglietta) and children. Nando, on the other hand, is still a bully and still leading his gang of his elementary classmates reigning terror down the city streets. Nando and clan shake down the local business, but he takes orders for a corporate don in a minor subplot.
Both Nando and Ezechiele are unhappy with their lives. Ezechiele hates being kicked-to-the-curb by everyone, and Nando, while feared on the street, is seen as a dim-witted moron. Wanting to better himself, Nando reaches out to Ezechiele to teach him manners and elocution (think My Fair Lady). Unbeknownst to Nando, Ezechiele has been working on a “potion” that can swap personalities between the two.
“Ezechiele has been working on a ‘potion’ that can swap personalities.”
Ezechiele is successful in the swap and becomes a confident and aggressive man in attitude, personality, and in bed…much to the delight of his wife. Nando becomes a nice, eloquent gentleman, but also a softie, which pisses off his crew. The rest of the film has Ezechiele and Nando seeing their world through the other person’s eyes.
If you’re a fan of Italian cinema and comedy or curious about how comedy translates from the EU, then stop reading this review and see D.N.A. – Definitely Not Appropriate. My first impression of watching the film was how far behind comedically this film is compared to what Americans are watching.
Lillo & Greg’s film felt like it came from the 80s with an 80s social sensibility. It will come across as rough for the politically correct as Ezechiele’s wife gets all worked up and h***y over the “abuse” she demands from his newfound aggression. Nando’s crew are now older gentlemen dressed in Michael Jackson’s red leather and acts like a typical 80s gang of goofs.
As a comedy, the humor is simplistic, silly, and falls flat. I’m willing to believe the laughs are lost in translation, but it will find a problem appealing to us Americans, who are used to much edgier, silly humor from Judd Apatow, Will Ferrill, and The Lonely Island. We demand much more sophisticated silliness today.
"…the humor is simplistic, silly, and falls flat."