Nearly two decades after “Everybody Loves Raymond” wrapped, Ray Romano still can’t seem to get away from the structure, timing and trappings of the TV sitcom. I’m a big fan of smart sitcoms and really enjoyed “Raymond” — sharp writing, relatable humor, classic characters and performances. But you can’t simply take that style, apply it to a feature-length film, and think you’re good to go.
“Somewhere in Queens”, which is co-written and directed by Romano (he also plays the main character), is a series of dysfunctional events that get more and more amped-up and ridiculous at the film progresses. Some moments are so outrageous you’ll want to yell louder at the movie screen than you would at your TV set.
Romano plays Leo, who’s married and works with his father and other brothers in the family construction business. Leo’s high school senior son (who’s called “Sticks”, because of his long legs) is somewhere on the autism spectrum. But he comes to life on the basketball court — and this is where Leo takes the most pride in his son and his importance as a father.
Sticks is in the running for a college scholarship, but a new girlfriend may get in the way. Or, maybe she’s the motivation he needs to succeed, whether she wants that role or not.
The first 20 minutes of “Somewhere in Queens” are promising, as we settle-in to the slice of life vibe of Leo, wife Angela (Laurie Metcalf), this stereotypical NYC Italian-American family, and the uneven construction company. There are some legit quirky, funny moments. Sebastian Maniscalco fans will chuckle at a few of the comedian’s dinner table wisecracks. Most scenes end with a sitcom-esque punchline, requiring the audience to fill-in the silent moment that follows with a laugh (or a rim shot, if you’ve got a drum set nearby).
Soon there are hints that trouble is ahead, for both the characters and us. A semi-uncomfortable conversation between Leo and Sticks’ girlfriend Dani (played by Sadie Stanley, who’s recurred for the past three years on ABC’s “The Goldbergs”) causes the screenplay to begin to collapse. The next hour is a mess, as the script gets more and more scattered, schmaltzy, and outrageously dumb. Finally, things spiral completely out of control, highlighted by a scene in which as family members resort to throwing food at each other at a party.
All of this take place somewhere in Queens (I don’t know how else the title applies).
There are more “Rocky” references than installments in that nine-film franchise. Metcalf (best known for “Roseanne” and “The Conners”) attempts an Italian/Queens accent that never sounds right. She’s also burdened with a forcefully showy subplot. And though it’s been nearly a year since “Somewhere in Queens” first screened at the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival, clearly no one went back and fixed some awful dubbing and editing errors.
If you’re looking at this movie as a possible in-theater option during the crowded month of April, look somewhere else.
LCJ GRADE: D+
Running Time: 106 min.