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Joey Boca (Kevin Kline) is an insatiably randy pizza-parlor operator who also owns an apartment block and cheats without shame on his devoted wife Rosalie (Tracey Ullman). When she discovers that Joey is on more than friendly terms with several of his female tenants she conspires with her Yugoslav mum (Joan Plowright) to bump him off, but when bouts of toxic spaghetti, bombs and baseball bats fail to achieve the desired effect on their resilient target they hire a couple of idiot hit-men, cousins Harlan and Marlon (William Hurt and Keanu Reeves), to get down to the basic arts of killing. 

Review by Keith Lofthouse: 
It could, as they say, only happen in America. Real life Pennsylvania housewife Fran Toto did, in fact, conspire with others to make no less than five attempts to rid herself of her unfaithful husband, which landed her in prison, before she and the serial philanderer were reunited just four years later. 

Lawrence Kasdan, who had barely put a foot wrong at the start of his career with Body Heat, The Big Chill, Silverado and The Accidental Tourist, deviates from the sublime to the ridiculous and comes unstuck when for the first time he directs a screenplay that he didn’t write. Toto’s incredible story had solid potential for macabre black comedy, but Kasdan chose to abandon reasonable restraint for wilful abandon and his fragmented film has all the discipline of a school-leaver’s food fight. “Someone puts a bullet in your brain, it makes you think,” Joey says dimly, but there’s not much evidence of that. 

Here is pizza topped with-the-lot rather than enhanced with delicate spices, as Kevin Kline reverts to the deliriously nutty character he played in A Fish Called Wanda, affects a phoney Italian accent and turns his eternally jolly Joey into a gross caricature that never remotely resembles real life. Up against this blatant stereotyping by her more experienced screen spouse, the frumped-up Ullman feeds off him like a demented piranha fish. When Joey shoulders his tiny red tool box and trots off to attend to his female tenants’ frequent need for, er, plumbing, only Rosalie is oblivious as she is left lumbered with spiritual young pizza flipper River Phoenix as her unlikely admirer, Devo. 

Ullman’s remarkable lookalike Joan Plowright gets the choicest lines as Rosalie’s hard-hearted mum, who has a love for candy but a hatred for Joey. Co-conspirators William Hurt (unrecognisable as a bleary-eyed junkie) and Keanu Reeves as his freaky, dim-witted friend, complete a star cast toiling to lift more than a titter from the thinly amusing screenplay, with one-liners that are too scarce to quote. There’s an odd sprinkling of pepperoni to spice things up (Kasdan, as Devo’s lawyer and writer Kostmayer have amusing cameos) but Kasdan’s direction is flaccid and uninspired… as if he’s read something funny in a newspaper and decided to churn out the movie in case someone else should come along and make a better one. Kline’s real-life wife Phoebe Cates joins him for an uncredited spin in a disco and former L.A. pizza slinger Joe Lando (who went on to star in TV’s Dr Quinn) served as "pizza consultant".

Published February 26, 2004

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(US, 1990)

CAST: Kevin Kline, Tracey Ullman, Joan Plowright

DIRECTOR: Lawrence Kasdan

SCRIPT: John Kostmayer

RUNNING TIME: 3 minutes

PRESENTATION: Widescreen (1:85/16:9 enhanced); language options: English, French, German, Italian, Spanish (all surround sound)

SPECIAL FEATURES: Bonus movie trailers

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Columbia TriStar Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: February 25, 2004

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