Film Review: Once More With Feeling

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PARK CITY -- Unabashedly sentimental and distinctly retro, "Once More With Feeling" is an old-fashioned family dramedy -- practically a rarity these days. An unforgiving theatrical marketplace is not a likely destination for the film, with cable and DVD offering the best opportunity for further exposure beyond the family-friendly festival circuit.

When 60-something psychiatrist Frank Gregorio (Chazz Palminteri) discovers the joys of karaoke, a door to his past opens as he grasps at the chance for a singing career that passed him by as a younger man. Although Frank tells his wife, Angelina (Maria Tucci), his frequent trips to a local karaoke joint are in preparation to sing at their youngest daughter's upcoming wedding, he secretly harbors an ambition to convert his hobby into a second career.

With her large Italian-American family in upheaval preparing for the upcoming nuptials, Angelina misses the signals that her husband may be slipping away, as he's befriended by frequent bar patron and karaoke enthusiast Lydia (Linda Fiorentino), a single woman with uncertain motives.

At the same time, Frank's eldest daughter, stay-at-home mom Lana (Drea de Matteo), is also experiencing a marital crisis, feeling rebuffed by her workaholic husband and constantly hounded by her two young kids. Contemplating both plastic surgery to reduce her post-pregnancy weight gain and a fling with an attractive police officer, Lana feels just as trapped as her father.

Director Jeff Lipsky and screenwriter Gina O'Brien briskly set up these intertwined story lines in the first 30 minutes, then get stuck in second gear with repetitive story beats, off-putting mawkishness and predictable plot twists.

While the pleasure of watching Palminteri essay the pater familias role is little diminished by the film's stale conventions, and Tucci stands out as Frank's long-suffering wife, most of the large and unwieldy cast deliver unremarkable performances.

Lipsky's undifferentiated directing style and the film's uneven digital production values further diminish any lingering appeal, although these limitations may be of lesser concern on the small screen.

Production companies: PHC Productions and Big "S" Productions present a Rosetta Films Production.
Cast: Chazz Palminteri, Drea de Matteo, Linda Fiorentino, Maria Tucci, Chris Beetem.
Director: Jeff Lipsky
Screenwriter: Gina O'Brien
Producers: Paul Jarrett, Nick Huston
Executive producers: Ed Carroll, Steve Matzkin, Sam Logan, Sarah Schroeder
Director of photography: Ruben O'Malley
Production designer: Deana Sidney
Music: Paul Hsu
Costume designer: Amy Bradshaw
Editor: Sara Corrigan
Sales: The Film Sales Company

No rating, 101 minutes