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Accountant Ugo Fantozzi embodies every possible stereotype of your Average middle-class Italian of the 70s. Stuck in a frustrating job, exploited and made fun of by his coworkers, designated victim of his bosses, unhappy and disheartened family man (married to an unbelievably ugly and dull wife, and with a simian daughter), he always seems to draw the shortest straw. No matter what he does, and how hard he tries, Lady Luck will always turn her back on him. Better if after having given him some hope.
But mind you, behind all the improbable situations and the over-the-top comedy stuff, the message is indeed deeper. Everything Fantozzi wishes for is the so-called Italian Dream: after the economical boom of the late 50s, every Italian dreamt about landing a good 9-to-5 job, buying himself a house and a car, living a nice and quiet family life with summer holidays, plenty of hobbies etc. And, should things have gone very well, maybe a mistress too...
Instead, poor Fantozzi is stuck in a rut: he has a second-rate version of all of that... And the more he tries to attain "happiness", the worse it ends.
Clearly, the comedy aspect is prominent, and the movie is also enjoyable for its slapstick comedy, for its sketches and for its caricatural portrait of Italian lower/middle-class. But once the funny parts are an "acquired taste", you can see past it and the sadness of the characters appears, offering a whole new dimension to the movie.
In origin Fantozzi was a literary character, created by Paolo Villaggio himself (who'll star as Fantozzi in all the subsequent movies), and on the written page the social criticism was much heavier. The cinematic version made the satire more enjoyable, probably less sharp, but for sure not less noticeable.
In the end, Fantozzi is a classic of Italian Comedy, and has had a long-lasting impact on Italian language, comedy and society. Every single character, quote and episode is well known in Italy and can easily be "recycled" in everyday's life, even 35 odds years after its original creation.
Had it been "just another silly comedy", it wouldn't had the same impact.
The only real downside of the movie, and of the whole saga, is you have to watch it in Italian, possibly understanding the language to a decent degree. Otherwise many jokes and situations will go over your head
I happened to think, and more then once, that these movies are not to be lost, they are a portrait of Italian life in the 70s and they are an example on how you can laugh (and laugh loud!) with a very low level (especially in the first and second episodes) of vulgarity. I'll take for me VHS or DVD collection to show them to my children's, with the hope that their generation will enjoy them as much as mine.
but unless you know the fantozzi quotes you won't get the gist of it and you'll be lost to most other who watched the movie(s) lots of times..
Here we are introduced to the characters which would reappear throughout the series: Fantozzi's frumpy wife (which would eventually be played, from the third entry onwards, by Luis Bunuel regular Milena Vukotic), his hideous daughter who looks more like a monkey (actually played a boy - subsequently a man - in drag!); his overbearing colleagues - the ever-optimistic myopic organizer (Gigi Reder), the playboy figure who's arrogant to his peers but utterly complacent to his superiors (Giuseppe Anatrelli), the free-spirited woman (Anna Mazzamauro) whom he desires but who's really quite unattractive herself; the employers, as befits the satiric nature of the films, are depicted as near deities with their offices fitted with armchairs in human skin and in whose aquariums swim a selected number of 'lucky' employees!!
The first entry has its fair share of memorably comic sequences: the football game during a thunderstorm between single and married men, Fantozzi's recurring mystical visions which invariably occur after having incurred a particularly heavy physical blow, the road rage sequence featuring a confrontation with a gang of thugs, the billiard game in which Fantozzi, after much verbal abuse, turns the tables on his superior and eventually kidnaps the latter's love-struck mother as security against his vengeance and a scene at a Japanese restaurant where, among other calamities, samurai are lopping off the limbs of those customers who are not appreciative of their cuisine!!
In Spain there are also similar films as the films of Paco Martínez Soria for example. It is very difficult to stand and watch the entire movie. There are moments when it seems incredible how bad it is. I write this review because I love the comedies of all sorts and I was completely disappointed with this film.
All in all, a complete and total waste of time.