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Movies based on Nickelodeon property that are fortunate enough to get a theatrical release are already risky enough, so when the network gets the gumption, financial backing, and resources to create a made-for-TV-movie based on a "popular" young adult novel or completely original idea is when you should just cut and run. Once upon a time, Nickelodeon was the holy grail for unique and original content for kids and young adults, churning out classic programming in the 1980's and the 1990's such as ridiculous game shows, sitcoms predicated off of cast chemistry and downright outrageous humor, and animated programs that have gone on to leave indelible marks of nostalgia on the hearts of many. Today, Nickelodeon, in my eyes, serves as nothing more than cheap entertainment, with shows predicated on desperately unfunny ways to try and remain "hip" and "cool" in the eyes of youngsters and churns out enough terribly written programs to sustain multiple networks.
A product of Nickelodeon's continuing downward spiral into an abyss of senseless children's entertainment is their TV "movie" Nicky Deuce, a sixty-six minute film starring iCarly's popular laughingstock, Noah Munck. I use this not as a demeaning term for Munck, but anyone who watched iCarly knew that his incessant, one-note "Gibby" character and the actor were simply played for laughs, with no substance or any sort of likable qualities thrown in either soul's direction. The film concerns Munck's character of Nicholas Borelli II, a nerdy kid who is anticipating his summer at math camp. When the facility holding his math camp experiences some plumbing trouble and Nicholas's parents are out of town, they reluctantly arrange for him to stay at his Grandma Tutti (Rita Moreno) and Uncle Frankie's (Steve R. Schirripa) house in Brooklyn, New York, much to the dismay of Nicholas's father, who detests his brother's mob connections.
Despite receiving a clear warning from his father to stay away from his uncle, Nicholas bonds with his Uncle Frankie because he wants to fit in in the neighborhood. He winds up meeting a cute girl named Donna (Cristine Prosperi), who shows him the ropes of Brooklyn, and befriends Tommy (Cassius Creightney), an obnoxious dolt who descends into a maddening fit of uncontrollable energy whenever the word "strudel" is uttered. Nicholas effectively transforms into "Nicky Deuce," a slick, street-smart kid, who begins to quietly help his Uncle Frankie solidify assumed mob connections, as well as become more assertive over the rough streets of Brooklyn.
Nicky Deuce is almost entirely predicated on basic Italian stereotyping, and not the humorous kind that makes for enjoyably light satire. It's the kind of stereotyping that is too easy to make, writing off any underlying form of wit in favor of making a quick joke. Being that most of the jokes deal with Nicholas, his family, or his neighborhood being brazenly Italian, doing Italian things, saying Italian phrases, and eating Italian food, most of Nicky Deuce's humor is frustratingly simple and too basic even by Nickelodeon standards.
It also doesn't help that the plot at hand is muddled, as we watch Nicky, Donna, and Tommy hurl themselves all over the place, usually accomplishing nothing and getting out of the mishaps they work themselves into almost as quickly as they get in them. Nicky Deuce moves too fast as a film, and because of that, develops nothing. It's as if the trio of screenwriters (if you can believe that), Art Edler Brown, Andy Callahan, and Will Schifrin, were handed a sixty-six minute runtime and were forbidden from going over or under that amount of time. What ensues, then, is a ridiculously choppy and scattershot film that dodges and weaves all over the place and doesn't amount to anything.
I hesitate to deem Nicky Deuce as a film that isn't harmful, due to its excessive oversimplifying of Italian culture and customs, yet do we really need to be arguing that for a Nickelodeon film that can barely conjure up a cogent plot let alone paint an entire culture outside of marginalizing boundaries? I think not; the same thing I'd say to someone asking me whether or not they should watch this film.
NOTE: It's stunning to see that this is one of James Gandolfini's final performances on film, and he's also on screen with Steven R. Schirripa, both of whom acted on the HBO show The Soprano's. If you're really desperate for two dumbed-down, oversimplified characters played by two great actors on a TV show from yesteryear, then maybe there's a reason to watch such drivel.
Starring: Noah Munck, Steven R. Schirripa, Cristine Prosperi, Cassius Creightney, Rita Moreno, and James Gandolfini. Directed by: Jonathan A. Rosenbaum.
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