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By Phil Hall | January 22, 2001

It is a cruel irony that one of the most delightful neighborhoods in America is the setting for one of the least delightful movies in circulation. “North Beach” is a miserable effort whose sole redeeming value is its location, the wonderful North Beach section of San Francisco. Anyone who ever followed Tony Bennett’s dilemma and left their heart in San Francisco will enjoy seeing the streets, alleys, cafes and architecture of this part of the city. Unfortunately, “North Beach” is not a travelogue and the neighborhood winds up playing a supporting role in this tiresome mess.
“North Beach” is reminiscent of the type of junk films that Kevin Bacon used to star in the early 1980s: romantic comedies about a cute guy who is part-Peter Pan and part-Romeo and who can’t help staying with his devoted gal because of his naughty overactive libido. The formula was a pain back in the 1980’s and it hasn’t improved much with age. This time around, we have a cute musician named Tyler who stumbles out of a fleabag hostel in the early hours after spending a night with a 19-year-old stripper from New Orleans. If this film is to be believed, everyone in North Beach is a blabbermouth and Tyler discovers that all the people in his wide social circle are talking about his indiscretion. Even worse, his loyal girlfriend Paige knows about it and has become rather chilly and abrupt when he tries to spark a conversation to explain what happened.
Most of “North Beach” consists of Tyler’s friends merrily informing him that they know about his liaison with the teenage stripper. Occasionally the conversation veers away from the “I-know-what-you-did-last-night” train of talk into sarcastic insults, lame innuendo, vague plans about creating music, and calls for everyone to start drinking. Late in the film, Paige decides to play Tyler’s game and find her own play-pal, which of course has Tyler racing to stop her and save their relationship.
Casey Peterson wrote the screenplay and stars as the bad-boy Tyler. As a writer, he has no approximation for recreating how people genuinely talk to each other; as an actor, he has no screen presence or personality and his non-performance is so bland that it makes it fairly difficult to understand why anyone would care about his carnal exploits. The rest of the cast consists of unknown actors who frequently overplay their roles in an endless series of smirks, explanations, sneers and harrumphs — perhaps they are trying to spice up a situation which was left undercooked in thescreenplay. Gabrielle Anwar, a starlet from the 1990’s (she did the tango with Al Pacino in “Scent of a Woman”), has a brief part as a gossipy waitress and it is a shame to see her career bottoming out in a film like this.
“North Beach” was directed by two men: Richard Speight Jr. (who also has a terrible supporting performance as a stoned guitarist) and Jed Mortensen (who apparently had the good sense to stay behind the camera). To their credit, they at least knew how to pick the right city for shooting a movie. Perhaps next time they can shoot the right movie.

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