By Phil Hall | June 12, 2001

“Only in Venice” is a virtually unwatchable comedy which has difficulty telling the difference between being quirky and being obnoxious. Set in Venice, California, the film follows the unlikely romance between an Italian mechanic with dreams of being a great chef (Mario Romano, who directed, wrote and co-produced the film) and a dippy astrologer who sells her star-gazing insights along the Pacific short (Tonya Crowe, who co-produced the film).
The main problem with this film is typical with most romantic comedies: it is never romantic and it is never comedic. The chief handicap comes from realizing that both stars are stuck playing idiotic one-dimensional caricatures rather than fully-flesh characters. Perhaps Crowe’s astrologer can get some mileage with the New Age astro-babble one might associate with an individual who possesses the profession and location of the part she is playing here, but Romano’s unconvincing Chico Marx-style accent and ham-handed attempts to portray a naive innocent from Venice, Italy, lost in swinging Venice, California wears out his welcome almost immediately. (Other characters are stuck with half-dimensional roles, including the stereotypical vapid model and the cliche-thick overkill stockbroker.) The on-screen chemistry between the two stars never heats up, and the cutesy-poo screenplay suggests no one associated with this film ever bothered to monitor how people in love really behave, and endless lame jokes don’t help at all (case in point: the Italian chef curses the name of Chef Boyardee as being “the devil”).
The failure of “Only in Venice” is a shame since, in all fairness, both Mario Romano and Tonya Crowe are highly attractive performers and it would not be impossible to imagine their success in a film which avoids contrivances and puerility in favor of a genuine love story between two genuine people. Maybe next time…but certainly not here.

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