Everybody ribs Ray Romano in his delightful directorial debut ‘Somewhere in Queens’

TV veteran stars in sharply funny movie as a likable schlub who dotes on his basketball player son.

SHARE Everybody ribs Ray Romano in his delightful directorial debut ‘Somewhere in Queens’
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Veteran sitcom actors Ray Romano and Laurie Metcalf are magnificent together as Leo and Angela, a long-married couple in “Somewhere in Queens.”

Roadside Attractions

We know exactly where we’re going with Ray Romano’s delightful and sharply funny “Somewhere in Queens” from the opening segment, which is set in a utilitarian banquet hall with the grand name of Versailles Palace, the go-to place in the neighborhood for christening celebrations, confirmations, bar mitzvahs, retirement parties, birthdays, you name it. This time around, it’s a wedding reception, and as Louis Prima’s “Buona Sera” plays on the soundtrack, the videographer records the guests sending their best wishes.

“I love youse both,” says one gal, and yes, she says “youse.”

Another woman says, “Louise, I know you think I hate you, I don’t, I love you, and I was right about that dress.”

A bridesmaid grabs the mic and says, “Sebastian, you better be good to her, because she’s my ride or die, I swear, treat her right, cuz if not I’m going to beat the f--- out of you.”

Boom. Too great.

‘Somewhere in Queens’

Untitled

Roadside Attractions presents a film directed by Ray Romano and written by Romano and Mark Stegemann. Rated R (for language and some sexual material). Running time: 107 minutes. Opens Thursday in local theaters.

Director, star and co-writer Romano stays squarely in his comfort zone with “Somewhere in Queens,” in which he plays the likable schlub Leo Russo, who has been married to his high school sweetheart, the brassy but fiercely loyal Angela (Laurie Metcalf) for more than 20 years, dotes on his painfully shy basketball star son Sticks (Jacob Ward) and works for the family construction company, which is owned by his old-school, tough-guy father (Tony Lo Bianco).

That Leo’s alpha-male younger brother Frank (Sebastian Maniscalco) is the foreman while Leo is just on the crew, along with his childhood best friend Petey (Jon Manfrellotti), tells you what the family thinks of Leo. He’s OK, he’s all right, even if he drives everybody nuts with his constant quoting of “Rocky” and his endless boasting about Sticks’ prowess on the court. He’s just not the guy you put in charge of things. He’s the guy you hope doesn’t screw things up.

And yes, Ray Romano can play this type of character in his sleep, and Laurie Metcalf certainly knows her way around a sitcom-type kitchen, and they’re magnificent together. (Sidebar: We never see any of those people from the opening segment again. The Russos were just guests at the wedding. Leo screwed up his toast to the point where he asked the videographer to edit it out.)

Many a scene in “Somewhere ...” is set at various functions at the Versailles, and at the Russo family home, where the extended clan gathers every Sunday early in the afternoon and you get the feeling nobody leaves the table until the sun is close to setting, what with all the back-and-forth banter and Mama Russo (June Gable) exhorting everyone to “Mangia tutti! Mangia!”

When Sticks (so nicknamed because of his height) brings his new girlfriend Danielle (a wonderful Sadie Stanley) to one such dinner, you might think Danielle would be overwhelmed and intimidated—but not this free-thinking, independent-minded spitfire. She speaks her mind and has strong opinions, earning her the grudging respect of the men at the table, though Sticks’ mom instantly dislikes her. (Angela’s reasons for clinging to her son go far beyond the usual overprotective Italian mother cliché. Having survived a bout with breast cancer, she’s fearful of the world, of change, of not having her boy close by.)

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Leo’s teen son Sticks (Jacob Ward) is certain that Danielle (Sadie Stanley) is the love of his life.

Courtesy of Roadside Attractions

Sticks is convinced he’s found the love of his life in Danielle, just as his father found his mother when they were teenagers, but Danielle says they’re just beginning their lives and they need to explore the world, separately. She breaks things off. Sticks falls into a deep depression, barely leaving his room. And this is when “Somewhere in Queens” takes a leap that will make you feel a little queasy and isn’t entirely convincing, with Leo pleading with Danielle to get back together with Sticks, just for a couple of weeks, just to help Sticks get his confidence back for a tryout with Drexel. It’s a well-intentioned but terribly ill-conceived and off-putting move by Leo, and it endangers our affection for this guy, and we know it’s going to backfire in spectacularly damaging fashion.

Thankfully, the writing by Romano and his former “Men of a Certain Age” colleague Mark Stegemann saves the day. Beyond the often hilarious dialogue and some slapstick humor, when “Somewhere in Queens” gets into serious territory, including Leo possibly having a fling with an attractive widow (Jennifer Esposito), the material is handled deftly and with intelligence and care.

Perhaps the most touching moment in the entire story occurs when Leo’s father finally finds it in himself to pay Leo a compliment, but does so without looking up from his desk, without looking at his son. Leo knows that’s the best his father can do, and he accepts that. Leo often goes too far in the other direction when it comes to his own parenting approach, and he comes dangerously close to ruining things with Sticks, but he’s a genuinely decent man at heart, and despite all the ribbing and criticism Leo takes every day of his life, his family knows and appreciates that.

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