Now, I know what you are thinking: "A foreign film?!?" I have to admit, I was thinking the same thing the first time I was forced to watch it. I can’t say that I’ve ever been much for foreign films. Even the ones I’ve liked weren’t among my favorite films. And, to be honest, I didn’t even want to give this one a chance.
I'm sorry to say that I had no idea who Roberto Benigni even was. But, the man is truly talented; he not only wrote and directed Johnny Stecchino
, but played two different characters. Yes, the film does have subtitles, but it's better than some cheesy voice overdubs, right?
was Benigni’s first movie, but you probably wouldn’t have ever guessed it. Benigni provides a down to Earth comedy with tremendous performances on all accounts.
The plot is tremendous. Benigni stars as a dull-minded character named Danté, who is somewhat of a con artist. He finds himself easily susceptible; when he meets a woman named Maria (played by Nicoletta Braschi) Maria then talks Danté into flying to Sicily. Danté, unknowingly, is set up to impersonate a despised Mafia snitch Johnny Stecchino... Johnny Toothpick, if you happen to be versed in Italian. Stecchino (also played by Benigni) happens to be Dante’s doppelganger. Danté persists to bumble through hilarious misunderstandings throughout the movie.
To add to that, the dialogue is so well written that it will have you constantly laughing. Benigni and the supporting cast provide such great acting that you truly feel you know these characters. The directing is superb and every single scene of the movie is so well thought out that it all pieces together in the end.
I have to say that right from the first scene I was hooked. Dante’s constant follies and bizarre antics are completely hilarious and just the beginning of the humor. I love it how Benigni seems so "into" his roles. When Dante seems surprised that a girl is interested in him, you really think Benigni is surprised too. But, who wouldn’t? Just the way Danté is portrayed is funny enough; his clothes sagging, his hair sticking up in each direction, and his job driving the "short bus." He seems like any guy you know that could be a con artist but is hardly smart enough to steal bananas. A lot of humor ends up being based on Danté not realizing his situation.
This movie has everything... comedy, drama, and a mentally challenged kid. Just picture the laughs. This movie could be well loved by anyone and its only pitfall is also its strength, which is Dante’s pretension. Some may see such exaggeration as a little overboard, but I think Benigni provides just enough laughs. The movie never seems to drag on. It ends just when it’s supposed to.
Are you still asking "Who goes to movies to read?" If this is your only stumbling block, I'd sooner suggest learning Italian than missing this movie.
Once you get past the subtitles, you realize what a brilliant and truly witty comedy Johnny Stecchino
is. There is a reason this was the highest grossing Italian film. And, if you are still remembering those old Bruce Lee joints full of horrible plots and bad overdubs... Don’t worry, it’s nothing like that!