Big Night Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ November 12, 2006
A really fun movie. This movie in itself is like a party.
Ryan M
Super Reviewer
½ November 11, 2011

I love food. I love Italians. Lastly, I also love New Jersey, especially the shore area; mind the parts popularized by MTV's trashy television series "Jersey Shore". Given how I am profoundly fond of all three things; it's no wonder that the 1996 food flick "Big Night" is like my wet dream come true. It takes a lot of things that I like and quite a few aspects of life that I love and puts them into a true cinematic treat; one of the best movies about food ever to be made. I suppose it has had its share of imitators, and this shall continue so long as Hollywood is granted entry into realms once thought untouched and forbidden to their kind; but this is a rather glorious night, and it's certainly one to cherish and remember.

What makes "Big Night" a great film is the fact that it understands something oh-so-very-valuable: the difference between a good food movie and a great one. To make a good one, the food is a given, and you need to also supply likable characters and locations to boot. But if you are, on the contrary, intent on making something that the audience - or at least a good share of those within it - shall remember long after the movie has run its course, then much more must be done. You must use food as a metaphor, and believe me, that is what "Big Night" does. To the simple-minded folks, it IS a film about food and people who make it. For me, a big emphasis is put on the "people who make it"; as this is a very human drama that works as a compelling study of both its central characters and the times that they live in. It makes some very intelligent and relatable commentary on today's world as far as foreign cuisine goes; food is a part of our culture, and a part of most other cultures too. We must never allow ourselves to detach from it; and it's movies like this one that remind us of the role that food plays in all of our individual lives.

Two Italian brothers, cutely named Primo (Tony Shalhoub) and Secondo (Stanley Tucci), reside off the shore of New Jersey; where they run a self-owned restaurant called "Paradise". Business isn't exactly booming; each night brings in different people, and not in large surplus. The larger restaurant across the street, run by family friend Pascal (Ian Holm), is enjoying a far greater amount of success than that of Primo and Secondo. In fact, their restaurant is so unpopular, and is bringing in so little amounts of money, that the bank insists on putting them out of the job. This is oh-so-very sad, because both Primo and his brother Secondo believe that what they conjure up in the kitchen is REAL, authentic Italian food; while all that is served on the opposite side of the street is Americanized, but therefore, more appealing to the general public.

Now, I've had my fair share of both real Italian cuisine and "Americanized" Italian cuisine. In a way, I appreciate them both; the former, perhaps, a good deal more than the latter. Italian food that is real and fresh is made with passion; and as a food lover (and a lover of many other things as well), I respect and appreciate that. If I go to a restaurant that presents itself in a fancy matter, I want food that is real; especially when it's one ran by those damned talented Italians.

While that last paragraph was a pleasant sidetrack, I think it's time I got back to the story. The brothers are given one last chance - one last night - to impress the masses with their promised and supposed "skill". This night shall determine everything from their future to their talent (as cooks) to their emotional wits. Before we know it, the night is upon them/us; the drinks are flowing, the food is cooking, eventually to be devoured, and we wait in anticipation just as the many guests do.

When dinner is finally served, we get something more than we would expect. Initially, I was hoping for this final meal to be admirably over-directed and spiked with artistic influence, but it was when it finally started to unfold that I understood the truth; "Big Night" is indeed about the grand meal, but not about the food. It's about the emotional core that each real human being there perhaps unwillingly strips bear; Primo and Secondo among others show their true selves in the film's closing scenes, which are flawlessly staged.

There's also a great deal spoken regarding women. The female characters of the film serve a large purpose in its story; they open doors for deception, seduction, and perhaps biggest of all, pure distraction. Secondo seems to be the only one, out of the two brothers who thinks he is in love; he has a girlfriend, yet he cheats on her by sleeping with his competitor's beautiful wife. Primo, on the other hand, does not seek love but more-or-less finds it in an attractive florist; who seems to like him back just fine.

The film is very human in nature; with some themes that are genuinely thought-provoking and surprisingly true to life. The food looks absolutely delicious whenever it is shown, and the stars are an attractive lot, but they should not distract from the core messages and thematic elements of "Big Night"; and there are truly too many to count. It is an overall wonderful and pleasant viewing experience that closely studies the relationships of brotherhood, the temptations of life, and dedication in the business world. It's a rare and great work of art that desires to entertain; and does just that, but unlike so many films, it doesn't have to sacrifice a well-told story and instantly lovable characters to do so. All ingredients combined; I'd say it makes for a rather splendid banquet of good cinema, good people, and good food.
Super Reviewer
September 9, 2007
The greatest film about food to come out of the U.S. Tucci is brilliant in his pet project.
Super Reviewer
March 29, 2009
Stanley Tucci and Tony Shalhoub as Italian brothers running a restaurant should be a recipe for wit, comedy, and great drama. Sadly, when you bite into it, there's nothing but air. Likeable, but nothing special.
Super Reviewer
½ July 19, 2011
This is a really charming little food movie, about a pair of Italian brothers trying to make it in the restaurant business. In a last-ditch effort to save their business, they make a mega meal for a celebrity with the hope of receiving a public endorsement.

Tucci and Shalhoub do a great job as the quirky brothers.
Super Reviewer
November 27, 2010
Just great! I'd been meaning to see this for a few years but wow. Such a great story and such a great cast. It really feels like you are with them on this big night for the restaurant.
June 9, 2013
Just a super-sweet, personal, more-play-than-movie that in using Fellini-type party scenes draws great banter, sadness, and ultimately a sense of togetherness from its characters. Tony Shalhoub and Ian Holm chew scenery like motherfuckers.
½ June 8, 2011
I'm a Foodie, so I loved this Movie.There is a Recipe in there I still Covet actually .Again we find ourselves pulling for the Underdog here in this film.I also have a fondness for the Actors in this Film, often thought of as Character Actors & Second Banana's. I often choose a Movie because Stanley Tucci, Minnie Driver,or Tony Shalhoub is in it , they are all underrated, as is this Film that makes you feel Italian for a Day(or night in this case).
June 6, 2011
Watched again for the first time in years (via Netflix), and I have to recommend this one to everyone I know. I LOVE this movie!
½ November 30, 2010
Thoroughly delightful, with an excellent cast. The pacing is slow and thoughtful, and the final scene (and the film itself) is beautifully shot. You will leave this movie feeling like you were an intimate guest at the dinner party. Marc Anthony surprised me with his sweet, quiet, nuanced performance... and younger Stanley Tucci and Isabella Rossellini? *sigh*
April 16, 2010
A solid character piece. Great music, great cast (yes, even Isabella Rossellini), and a very good ending. Minnie Driver is beautiful here.
½ January 29, 2010
Fantastic movie about 2 brothers trying to nmake it in the movie business. Outstanding soundtrack as well!!
December 24, 2009
Dessert...a buddy movie that's NOT an action film...and what nerve, to end it all with a 5 min, stationary shot where nobody says anything...brilliant
January 15, 2009
This movie is great. It is about a 50s restaurant that two brothers own and they are to have one last attempt to make it in the restaurant biz, one last "big night" in which Louis Prima is going to attend.
Everyone who eats at this unknown restaurant is blown away by the genius of the chef (one of the brothers-Shaloub), but that is the problem, NOBODY knows about it, yet a big "Olive Garden" type restaurant down the block is always popular and their food is totally just average.
There is a scene where they are making a coveted traditional family secret recipe (Timpano) that can be ruined if the cook time is off a bit...and the build up during the feast to that dish and then when they finally bring it out made the entire theater's collective mouth's water...Everyone actually groaned with pleasure when this happened.
There is an underlying 'dig' at Hollywood in that the big budget uncreative movies get all the hype and screen time where as the very creative and thought out indy films get snubbed and no recognition.
The last scene after the brothers had their fight is one of my favorite endings in a movie. The reaction by the busboy is perfect and it is just an incredible moment and ending.
Any other ending would have been subpar.
October 28, 2006
What drew me to this movie was the beautiful soundtrack that I had heard.

This was a labor of love for Stanley Tucci. While I think my expectations were a little too high, I think overall it was a good movie.
½ October 9, 2008
i don't know how i didn't see this sooner. beautiful story, great casting. its on my "to own" list now.
Super Reviewer
December 30, 2007
I rented this because my husband loves restaurant shows like "Hell's Kitchen" and "Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares". We also like Tony Shalhoub. Unfortunately, the first half of this movie was slow and my husband fell asleep. The second half (where the party begins) was more lively and reminded me of the Italian parties my grandmother hosted when I was a child. The fight at the end of the movie was passionate and funny. I think this movie would have been better if it had a more concrete ending. I wanted to know what the brother's ended up doing?
August 18, 2007
a film about food and not compromising tradition and taste to make a buck..great cast and hungry any one?
½ June 26, 2007
Strange movie that still resonates with me (what the hell was that layered egg dish?). Tucci and Shalhoub are perfect.
April 11, 2007
It was fun seeing Stanley Tucci and Tony Shalhoub playing Italian brothers fighting to keep their restaraunt and authenticity in their Italian food alive. I found the very last scene of the film to be very interesting--the scene is driven completly by character movement with no dialogue for probably 3 minutes straight. Funny, good script, well acted. Only major criticism is that almost every character in this film smokes, which is skewed and unrealistic.
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