Written by: Lou Zammichieli, Special to CC2K
I wanted to like this script; really I did. After all, what's not to like? A movie about my personal favorite Rat Packer written by the screenwriter who collaborated with Scorsese on two of the best Mob films of all time, Goodfellas
Throw in my natural affinity for all things Italian-American, and it's a can't miss, right?
First let's start with the style of the script. Mr. Pileggi has transplanted the same writing style he used for the aforementioned films to Dino: an in-and-out, not-precisely-linear style of cut and paste vignettes. This worked for Goodfellas and Casino because they were about something larger than just one man. (Note the titles: Goodfellas rather than "Henry Hill"; Casino rather than "Lefty Rosenthal".) Ostensibly, this is the story of one man, but Pileggi has overstuffed the 168 pages with everything but the cappuccino machine. The final result is something so choppy that the screenwriter must be getting paid by the "CUT TO:" command. Everyone from Lou Costello to JFK to Dorothy Hamill is represented here, and while this may be a jobbing actor's dream, it's an audience's nightmare to try and keep up with.
The Dean Martin reflected in this script seems essentially hollow, only spoken about by others rather than engaged with us personally. You never know quite what makes Dino Crocetti tick. And while its true he was a notoriously difficult man to pin down, we should receive some though-line to see how it all made up "Dean Martin". There is a cursory attempt made to analyze why Dean was so emotionally distant (a horrid emotionally-violated childhood that defies all stereotypes of "warm, loving Italian family") and how that "I don't really care" attitude ultimately burned him (the death of favorite son Dean-Paul Martin in a plane crash, an emotional blow from which he never recoved), but these pay-offs are few.
Bottom Line: I'm relieved that this film wasn't made, because Dean's fans would be ultimately disappointed, and not just because of who was connected for the lead a few years back: that great ethnic actor Tom Hanks, a man as Italian as a Velveeta sandwich on Wonder Bread. Guess they couldn't find an Italian-American actor with any enthusiasm for playing the part.
Dino's long-suffering (and longest-lasting) wife Jeane is (intentionally or not) given the line that seems to serve as Pileggi's writing mantra: "There's nothing there, or too much."
This just in: Internet Rumor has it (get out the salt-licks now) that Joe Mantegna owns the rights to script. Rat Pack fans will remember Joe as playing Dean a few years back in that highly underrated made for TV film called (surprisingly) The Rat Pack. Most people's objection to the film seemed to circulate around an objection to Ray Liotta playing Sinatra as a hot-tempered, egocentric bully with violent, sociopathic tendencies. Go figure.
Author: Lou Zammichieli, Special to CC2K