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Yeast Common Denominator: Scott Baio and Kristin Minter are emotionally kneady in 'The Bread, My Sweet.'

Crumby

'The Bread, My Sweet' didn't cost much dough, but it sure is stale

By Richard von Busack

SO MANY MOVIES today are an assault on older viewers, with crazed editing, thumping popular music and cavalier attitudes toward violence. Older viewers gave up on going to the movies. Word of mouth got them out to My Big Fat Greek Wedding, however, and now films are emerging to recapture that kind of televisionized independent film. The Bread, My Sweet can be weakly recommended for people who loved My Big Fat Etc.

First-time director/writer Melissa Martin continues the surefire strategy of remaking the working-class MGM romances from 50 years ago, giving them a frosting of salty language to freshen them up. Once again, a director has opposed the bad Hollywood movies of today with the bad Hollywood movies of yesterday. Early on, two customers at a bakery argue over whether the shop's biscotti are made from a mix or not. The bakery's boss, Dominic (Scott Baio), is aghast at the idea. "Mixes suck!" says his assistant, Eddie (Billy Mott). And yet, is there anything in The Bread, My Sweet that doesn't seem like it came out of a box? The presence of Baio--the essence of the vacant TV star--says it all. Equally false are Rosemary Prinz, who plays Dominic's Italian adopted mother, Bella, and John Seitz, who attempts to out-grouch Anthony Quinn as Bella's husband, Massimo. Perhaps the most perfectly fake of the lot is little brother Pino (Shuler Hensley). He's good-hearted; he's retarded.

When Prinz's Bella starts miming the first symptoms of what will turn out to be a long siege with cancer, Dominic starts feeling himself drawn back to a realer way of life. Running the bakery is his part-time job; his full-time job is as a corporate hatchet man for the mergers and acquisitions department. The department managers meet in a dark office, so we'll know they're vampires; they also eat disgusting junk food to demonstrate their lack of contact with the earthy good bread of the old country (yet there are yuppies who enjoy heirloom bread). Quitting this unholy career, Dominic embarks on a "business deal" to make Bella's last days happy: he decides to marry her unconventional daughter, Lucca (Kristin Minter from ER in an underwritten part). But this on-paper engagement soon turns into the real thing, to no one's real surprise.

The real streets of the Strip district in Pittsburgh and the food-porn shots at the Enrico Biscotti factory are appealing. Too bad about Martin's unconquerable cuteness: watch this and feel the full excruciation of little theater, which is her background. It could be noted that there is no one in age between the assimilated Dominic and Lucca, and the craggy old-country Italians. The Freudian principle that "what the grandparent wishes to forget, the grandchild wishes to remember" always works best on film when you get rid of the people in between. That way you can gloss over old-country prejudices, grudges and terrors, as they weren't glossed over in Moonstruck, for instance. The Bread, My Sweet isn't even an eclipse of Moonstruck. Advertised as a good hearty loaf, it's actually more like stale Wonderbread.


The Bread, My Sweet (Unrated; 105 min.), directed and written by Melissa Martin, photographed by Mark Knobil and starring Scott Baio and Kristin Minter, opens Friday at Camera 3 in San Jose and Century Cinema 16 in Mtn. View.


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From the April 17-23, 2003 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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