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Tuesday, December 13, 2016

'Stevie D' Theatrical/VOD: L.A. Mob Twist on 'The Prince and the Pauper'

The Candy Factory Films comedy "Stevie D," which is a new theatrical and VOD release, provides a good alternative to the lesser attempts at Christmas vacation comedies that are populating multiplexes. This modern take on the classic Mark Twain (and retro sitcom staple) tale "The Prince and the Pauper" has the crude, dim-witted, and lazy son of a "connected" legitimate businessman who owns a large construction firm trade places with a bright and caring look-a-like struggling actor. Star Chris Cordone plays both roles.

A casting note of note is that "Barney Miller" veteran Hal Linden plays Max, who is the old-time agent of the actor. Seeing Linden portray that character with the same humor and heart for which he is known regarding the titular police detective is awesome.

The titular Stevie DiMarco is the aforementioned lout who divides his copious free time between hanging out with his equally low-life entourage and pursuing women who range from strippers to attorney Daria, who both represents DiMarco patriarch Angelo and is the daughter of DiMarco family friend/law firm head Jack.

The role of Stevie in the (hilarious) accidental death of an employee of a mafia boss with whom Angelo has personal and professional dealings put the elder in a tough spot regarding his sense of paternal duty and his desire to maintain his good working relationship with the aforementioned organized crime lord. Angelo seeing the aforementioned thespian Michael Rose on television prompts the former to hire the latter to pretend to be Stevie. Michael accepts the part oblivious to the fact that doing so places him directly in the line of fire that is intended for the real (in involuntary seclusion) Stevie.

The ensuing comedy being low-key is a nice change from the over-the-top approach that writer/director Cordone could have taken regarding this tale of three Italian families, the mafia, a crude manchild, and an actor whose aspirations far exceed his career. The behaviors of these characters are largely as one would expect from real-life persons regarding whom any similarities are purely coincidental.

Michael seamlessly falls into his role and greatly enhances the reputation of Stevie without even trying. This includes charmingly courting Daria, with whom he makes a good couple, and enormously helping to the DiMarco family business. In other words, he is the son whom Angelo always wanted.

Cordone even does things coming to a head with style and understatement. One spoiler is that there are no scenes of Michael hysterically dodging bullets, Stevie and Michael comically avoiding being seen together, or anyone even learning a lesson. Again, things just proceed as one might expect in a real-life version of the depicted events. Consequently, as is typical in real life, there are neither any truly exceptional nor any completely devastating moments in the roughly six-week timespan of "Stevie."

The overall realistic approach by Cordone in this film makes his blurring of reel-and real-life at the end of "Stevie" especially apt. This final solution will make you smile as much as the rest of the film.

The director's statement by Cordone in the press materials for "Stevie" eradicate any doubt regarding his intent to realistic explore (traditional and non-traditional) familial relationships. His noting his emphasis on "creating specificity and uniqueness to the characters" particularly demonstrates his modus operandi. He adds that "the story overall" "has many components of movies we have all seen, but very quickly goes in another direction." Now that he has done this for us on the day of the premiere of his film, we must grant one in return when Cordone calls to ask that of us.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Stevie" is encouraged to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.