RATING |

Everybody Wants to Be Italian

wants desperately to be

My Big Fat Greek Wedding

- a little indie romantic comedy steeped in ethnic stereotypes and saucy humor. I'm sure the distributor would like nothing more than to emulate Nia Vardalos' 2002 sleeper's success: emerging from nowhere to win audiences' hearts and wallets.

Good luck.

Set in Boston and offering a male lead with the maturity and charm of a grade-school bully, this slapdash love story revolves around Jake Bianski (Jay Jablonski), a young, successful Beantown fishmonger who remains hopelessly smitten with the girlfriend who dumped him eight years previously. (That's when she discovered him sleeping with her sister.)

Never mind that Isabella (Marisa Petroro) has moved on - she's married, with three kids, even. Jake still comes around pitching woo, offering flowers and insisting that they're soulmates. He's a stalker, basically, but writer/director Jason Todd Ipson (a straight-to-video horror veteran) wants us to like him anyway.

Enter Marisa Costa (Cerina Vincent), a cute veterinarian looking for a man to love - and looking for a stray cat beneath a dumpster in the alley behind Jake's fish market. Neither Jake nor Marisa, it turns out, is Italian, but thanks to the meddling and ministrations of Jake's two authentically Italian (-American) employees, the couple check each other out at a North End club's Italian singles night.

Jake and Marisa click, but his ongoing obsession with his old sweetheart threatens the new relationship, and the fact that each has been deceiving the other about their ethnic origins doesn't help matters any, either. With a cameo from Penny Marshall, playing a neighborhood florist, and Judith Scarpone as a wise old Italian (and Olympia Dukakis doppelganger) offering advice to Marisa, the plot winds its way to the inevitable happy ending.

John Kapelos and John Enos III ham it up as the testosterone- and tomato sauce-fueled fish sellers, and Vincent projects an engaging vibe, but not exactly star power, as the animal doc with the ticking biological clock (her character's 33).

Full of clunky humor, battle-of-the-sexes musings and spicy accordion music, Everybody Wants to Be Italian is relentless - but not necessarily relentless fun.

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Contact movie critic Steven Rea at 215-854-5629 or srea@phillynews.com. Read his blog, "In the Mix," at http://go.philly.com/inthemix.