Ray Romano made his bones, so to speak, as the star and co-creator of the hugely successful TV series Everybody Loves Raymond. Since its demise, the former standup comic has avoided trying to repeat himself and done admirably well (see Get Shorty, The Big Sick, The Irishman). Now he has made his directing debut with a film he stars in and also wrote, with Mark Stegemann, one of his collaborators on the excellent if short-lived series Men of a Certain Age.

At first glance the feature seems to be cut from the same cloth as Raymond, but that’s only because it shares the sitcom’s honest use of a natural resource: working-class Italian-American family life in one of New York City’s five boroughs. Every character has an individual identity and point of view. Romano plays a guy who has resigned himself to the routine of life as a husband (to sharp-tongued Laurie Metcalf), dad, and unmotivated employee of his father’s construction business. The only true happiness life offers him is watching his teenaged son play basketball, but even this has turned into a ritual that threatens to smother him and the boy as well. 

The boisterous characters flirt with caricature but are rooted in reality. Their many peccadilloes provide plentiful comedic fodder but also allow Romano to explore family relationships and the way that old habits can turn sour without anyone stopping to take notice.

Somewhere in Queens is jam-packed with incident and minor plot detours. Some characters only reveal their true selves as the story is winding down. Tony Lo Bianco confirms that casting the right actor in a role—in this case, the family patriarch—can pay off handsomely even if he doesn’t have much screen time. Every moment counts.

I don’t think you have to have grown up in or around New York City to relate to Somewhere in Queens, but it couldn’t hurt. I found the film quite poignant and it has stayed with me since I watched it well over a week ago.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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July 2024