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'Kiss Me Guido': Odd Couple

By Michael O'Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Aug. 8, 1997

How’s this for a wacky movie premise? New York apartment-hunter answers ad from "GWM seeking same to share fully furnished apartment." Only problem is our hero thinks that "GWM" means "Guy With Money" and not "Gay White Male." On top of that, the clueless one just happens to be a homophobic Italian stallion from the Bronx with big biceps and a cute butt.

On paper, it sounds like "Crocodile Dundee" with an outer-borough accent. Just imagine the comic possibilities for misunderstanding as the naive outsider encounters the sophisticated downtown world of Manhattan’s gay enclaves!

Sadly, none of these possibilities are realized in "Kiss Me Guido," an unfunny comedy by Tony Vitale that is enacted not by fleshed-out characters but by hackneyed, two-dimensional stereotypes. There’re so many sexual and ethnic caricatures, it’s hard to know which is most offensive.

Warren (Anthony Barrile) is a struggling actor whose biggest claim to fame has been a bit part in "Mafia Kickboxer III." He’s behind on his rent and about to be evicted by his brittle, neurotic and man-hungry landlady Meryl (Molly Price) if he doesn’t come up with some fast cash. What’s worse, his lover Dakota (the horse-faced Christopher Lawford) has just dumped him for John, a temperamental theater artiste (David Deblinger) sporting a greasy Caesar haircut and an oh-so-boho Vandyke beard. In a parody of pretension, John has changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol (#).

Enter Warren’s best friend Terry (Craig Chester), a trampy bottle-blond whose swishy flouncing and caustic put-downs are the movie’s sole source of amusement. (I hate to admit I laughed out loud when Terry insults #’s taste in clothing by asking, "Who threw up on your shirt?" Okay, so Oscar Wilde it ain’t.) In light of Warren’s financial predicament, Terry has secretly placed a newspaper advertisement for a roommate. Who should respond but the hunky -- and straight -- Frankie Zito, played by "The Young and the Restless" himbo Nick Scotti? After Frankie catches his girlfriend (Jennifer Esposito) having sex with his slimy, crotch-grabbing brother Pino (Anthony DeSando), he is all too eager to move out of his family’s apartment, populated by a bunch of ethnic cartoons straight out of a Ragu commercial.

But the setup’s already thin comedic potential is squandered early on when Warren announces to Frankie that he’s "100 percent, grade-A, USDA queer." Now all that’s left of the film’s last hour is for this modern-day odd couple to move toward tolerance and understanding of each other’s differences. Puh-leeeeze! They may not see eye to eye -- Frankie’s favorite film star is Sylvester Stallone and Warren’s Julie Andrews -- but, predictably enough, they’re soon waltzing off into the sunset cooing (in an affront to "Casablanca"), "I think this could be the start of a beautiful friendship."

Despite Herculean acting efforts by Scotti and Barrile, the lead performances seem nuanced only in comparison to the cardboard cutouts all around them. "Kiss Me Guido’s" chief problem lies in its attempts to poke fun at the worst of cultural bigotry while pandering to it at the same time. Unfortunately, you can’t have it both ways.

KISS ME GUIDO (R) — Contains profanity, sexual situations and suggestive dialogue.

© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

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