Che bella giornata -- Film Review

Politically incorrect comedy about terrorism and ignorance lacks bite.

ROME — A wildly inept and ignorant security guard drives his police chief superior to a breakdown while courting a beautiful woman who is actually using him to pull off a dastardly crime. Sound familiar? If the plot is worthy of a Pink Panther film, sadly the talent behind Che bella giornata (literally, “What a Beautiful Day”) is not.

Which is not to say that popular stand-up comic Checco Zalone (real name: Luca Medici) isn’t fun to watch in this breezy, by-the-books comedy tailored for the comedian by himself and co-writer Gennaro Nunziante, the film’s director. But Che bella giornata is as easy to forget as it is to sit through.

Italy’s leading distributor, Medusa Film, has released the title on an unprecedented 850 screens. Che bella giornata has already grossed about 19 million euros in its first five days, or over half of what mega-blockbuster Benvenuti al sud has taken in over 12 weeks.

Foreign audiences won’t catch the local humor based on numerous Italian stereotypes, especially between the north and south. But the broader comedy, which pokes fun at Italian ignorance of Arabic culture, can easily resonate with international viewers and is prime remake material.

Zalone plays Checco, an exuberant and impertinent mamma’s boy who dreams of becoming a Carabiniere (military police officer) but keeps failing the academy exam. After strings are pulled, he lands a job guarding the Madonnina, the uppermost statue of Milan’s Duomo cathedral.

Unbeknownst to him, the beautiful young Arab woman Farah (Nabira Akkari) who befriends him is actually planning to plant a bomb atop the cathedral to avenge her parents’ death in the current Gulf War.

Zalone, who resembles Adam Sandler (another remake alert), is known for his politically incorrect humor. But the overall story and especially ending are sticky sweet. Only Checcho is mischievous while everyone else, even the terrorists, are amiable enough and serve mostly to absorb Zalone’s one-liners.

Akkari elegantly injects some life into her character while veteran actors Tullio Solenghi, Rocco Papaleo and Ivano Marescotti are always reliable for laughs. Newcomers Luigi Luciano and Michele Alhaique, as Checco’s nerdy best friend and a young seminarian, respectively, are unexpectedly accomplished.

Opened in Italy Jan. 5
Production companies: Taodue Film, Medusa Film, Sky Cinema
Cast: Checco Zalone, Nabira Akkari, Michele Alhaique, Ivano Marescotti, Luigi Luciano, Rocco Papaleo, Tullio Solenghi, Mehdi Mahdloo
Director: Gennaro Nunziante
Screenwriters: Gennaro Nunziante, Checco Zalone
Producer: Pietro Valsecchi
Director of photography: Federico Masiero
Production designer: Sonia Peng
Music: Luca Medici, Checco Zalone
Costume designer: Mary Montalto
Editor: Pietro Morana
No rating, 97 minutes