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By James Teitelbaum | January 5, 2009

What happens when a Hollywood character actor decides to go back to his home town (if The Bronx can be called a ‘town’) to co-write and direct an indie feature? I will tell you. He takes everything that he has learned watching the big boys on the right coast do their thing, and regurgitates it. In this case, what writer/director/actor Louis Lombardi has brought home with him from Hollywood (he has appeared in a slew of television appearances, and has been cast in films like Spider Man 2 as “poker player”) is Tinseltown’s persistent and miserable lack of originality. For his second outing as a feature director, Lombardi attempts to tell a nostalgic tale of family bonding, and he succeeds in this goal. But his story contains absolutely nothing that the average filmgoer hasn’t seen a thousand times already… this week.

In “Doughboys”, Louis (Lombardi) and his older brother Frankie (Gaetano Iacono) are a pair of grossly overweight bakery owners in The Bronx, New York. Frankie is the smarter brother, the one who did well in school and could have had a future outside of baking. Louis is the younger brother whose heart is really in baking, and always has been, but his gambling problem and perhaps a lack of intelligence are dragging him down the tubes. Their bakery has been in their family for four generations, but the brothers are in danger of losing it to a local gangster, due to Louis’ gambling debts.

The brothers do not manage to defeat the gangster, and they do in fact lose their family business. However, during this process, they are reminded of the importance of their family bonds. Frankie has always been frustrated with his little brother Louis’ constantly screwing up in life, but Frankie also knows that Louis loves him and looks up to him. When Louis loses Frankie’s life savings – just as the announcement is made that Frankie’s wife is pregnant and that they are moving to Florida – the solidarity of the family is stretched to the limit.

At about the seventy-five minute mark, the feature comes to an abrupt end. What could have been the last reel of the movie is replaced by a quick sentimental voice-over from Louis and Frankie’s dead father (who also appears in the flesh during sepia-toned flashbacks). The voice-over wraps everything up rather neatly, describing a happy ending for everyone involved. It also saves Lombardi from having had to shoot for a few extra days.

On a technical level, the film is adequate. That said, I was shocked to discover that the miserable, amateurish, cheap-sounding score is not in fact from an early 1980s production music library, but is in fact a contemporary score composed for the film. Other than that, there is very little (creatively or technically) that is offensively bad in “Doughboys”, but the problem is that there is nothing at all that is particularly good. I found the movie to be a little dull, perhaps mainly due to the fact that there are no remotely original ideas here at all. Were there some actual creativity present in the writing, perhaps there’d be a recommendation here, but as-is, you’re not going to regret missing this one.

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