February 10th, 2005

Cinema Dave  Swashbuckling ournalist and

"Uncle Nino"

It is easy to romanticize one's youth. My weekends on
Long Island were filled with family projects and food.
My cousins and I would watch our parents create
practical devices; like building a smoker, installing
a patio or digging a garden. The visitation would
usually end with some feast and family folktales
around the dinner table. The lessons that my cousins
and I learned from our parents was that it is
important to work hard, but it is even more important
to play harder.

“Uncle Nino” is a very simple movie that celebrates
every day life. The film features an Americanized
family facing everyday pressures that are compounded
by a visit from an Italian Uncle who does not speak
English. There is beauty in the simplicity of this

The motion picture opens in a quiet, but effective
way. The black and white credits roll and then cut to
verdant landscape shot of Tuscany. We meet Uncle Nino
(Pierrino Mascarino), a beared older man with dogs at
the dinner table. The Italian gentleman is a busy
gluing label on bottles of wine. Each label features
a picture of Abraham Lincoln.

The film abruptly cuts to the heavy metal suburbia of
Glenview, Illinois. Bobby Micelli (Trevor Morgan) is
busy toilet papering the house of their cranky
neighbor. His father, Robert (Joe Matenga) is an
important business executive who is annoyed by Bobby's
music. Marie Micelli (Anne Archer) is a housewife,
social coordinator and part time retail sales
representative. Gina Micelli (Gina Mantenga) is the
youngest child in the family with an affectionate need
for a puppy dog. When Uncle Nino abruptly arrives in
the Micelli household, no one has time to communicate
with him.

Late one afternoon, Uncle Nino finds a way to converse
with Marie over a bottle of wine. Bobby and Uncle Nio
communicate thru the language of music. Things get
crazy for the Micelli household when the uncle buys a
dog for Gina. Feeling that grass is a waste of space, Uncle changes the front yard into a tomato garden. A clash of cultures ensures that becomes a
blessing in disguise. These conflicts define the
values of being a family.

Avoiding the usual clichés found in such a movie
“Uncle Nino” creates an interesting hybrid between
storytelling and honesty. Every flawed character is
likable. When Bobby and his father have their
emotional showdown, Director/ Writer Robert Shallcross does not sugar coat
the scene - but let's the scene end with a coda of
untapped rage that needs to cooled off. While the
emotion is raw, the heartbreak is honest.

The best scenes of “Uncle Nino” involve tender
mercies. After playing his fiddle with Bobby's heavy
metal band, Uncle Nino begins to subtly change the
antisocial behavior of his chain-smoking drummer.
Instead of being a cool fool, the character gains a
clue. It is a fun transformation that actor Duke
Doyle pulls off without losing the original essence of
the character.

Given Hollywood's consistent anti family value
message, “Uncle Nino” is a unique motion picture
release. The film could have been pure corn and
schmaltz, yet Director Shallcross keeps it from
flailing into that direction. As the film progresses,
one can see that this film was a labor of love from
the cast and crew. “Uncle Nino” is a movie that
parents, grandparents and children can go see together
and discuss at the dinner table. Perhaps over a bottle
of wine, macaroni, sauce and formaggio!