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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Pizza is the story of Cara-Ethyl (Kylie Sparks), an overweight adolescent girl celebrating her birthday. No one comes to her party, so sheís forced to impersonate voices to fool her mother (Julie Hagerty), who wears eye bandages after a donut-baking accident. Cara-Ethyl also has an annoying little brother whom she often takes abuse from.

Her night changes with the arrival of Matt Firenze (Ethan Embry), a 30 year-old pizza delivery guy. He sees whatís going on and feels kind of sorry for the girl. When she begs him to let her ride along for an eveningís worth of deliveries, he agrees. The next few hours change both their lives, as Cara-Ethyl fulfills some personal goals and learns self-respect, and Matt faces some uncomfortable truths about his dead-end life.

What Pizza has going for it is a solid performance from Embry, who has brought a likeability to films such as Canít Hardly Wait, That Thing You Do! and even Vegas Vacation. The actor shows us several dimensions to Matt, making us feel that heís a guy trying to hide his pain in a faÁade of nonchalance. Itís an interesting character, well-played. To her credit, Sparks (a former ďERĒ guest star) believably makes Cara-Ethyl a weird outcast, and we can understand why nobody likes her. Then again, that may not be such a great thing for the audience.

The movie may have interest for some viewers. In addition to Embryís fine work, there are certainly a few laugh-out-loud moments along the way, and a couple of scenes play out to effectively show how Cara-Ethylís low self-esteem impacts her life. But for me, Pizza was a little too precious. For starters, the characters in this movie donít talk like real people; they all talk like overly clever screenwriters. The dialogue never rings true because itís always full of the stylized witticism of a screenplay thatís trying to be funny.

The relationship between Matt and Cara-Ethyl is also less than convincing. Weíre supposed to believe that a night of outrageous events Ė seeing a naked man, sneaking into a club, baking a pizza that will cause Cara-Ethylís enemies to have uncontrollable flatulence when they eat it Ė creates a strong bond the characters. In truth, they bond because the script forces them to. I didnít buy it for a second.

I think that writer/director Mark Christopher (54) had an interesting idea here, but he didnít believe in the reality of it. The film often feels like an extended sitcom rather than a full-length motion picture. I wish it had taken a more in-depth approach at exploring the lives of Cara-Ethyl and Matt. Thereís potentially something meaningful there; Pizza just doesnít quite find it.

( 1/2 out of four)

Pizza is rated PG-13 for sexual content, language and a brief drug reference. The running time is 1 hour and 22 minutes.

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