My Big Fat Greek Wedding meets Guess Who's Coming to Dinner in Rosario Roveto's A Wake in Providence, which features an Italian American family so stereotypical you can practically taste the spaghetti with meatballs. The movie itself is something of a family affair, including brothers who grew up in Providence playing brothers who grew up in Providence. One of them, Vincent Pagano, is Anthony, an L.A. actor who uses the occasion of his grandfather's funeral to finally bring his girlfriend (Victoria Rowell) home to meet the folks. One small problem: The girlfriend happens to be African American. Upon meeting her, most of the family does something resembling a spit take. They're not just Italians, you see, they're FBI ' full-blooded Italians.
Think the Corleones, only without the head for business. One of the strengths of A Wake in Providence is its cast, most of whom seem like they've been negotiating these comic turns their whole lives, which they probably have. Lisa Raggio brings a Moe Howard spin to the role of Anthony's mother, a woman who's still quite capable of leading her sons around by the ear but who can also see beyond the racial prejudices she grew up with, cheerily pointing out that Italy and Africa are practically next-door to each other. There's an uncle with testicular problems that he won't shut up about. And there are a pair of cousins who make Fredo look like the brains behind the Corleones' rise to power. For some reason, they're convinced the Mob's after them.
Dodging the goombahs and goofballs are the leads, who bring a measure of sanity to the proceedings. Rowell endows her Sidney Poitier role with the requisite dignity. And Pagano, who co-wrote the script with his brother and two others, both of whom appear in the film, gets a chance to display his acting chops in an emotional funeral oration. By that point, it's been revealed that adding an African American to the mix is the least of this family's problems. In fact, there are so many skeletons in the closet there's barely room for anything else. You'll need a taste for Italian seasoning to fully appreciate A Wake in Providence. But there are just enough unpredictable flavors to make you feel like you're trying something a little bit new.