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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Fatso (Anchor Bay DVD)



Picture: B-     Sound: C+     Extras: C-     Film: B+



After starring in several Mel Brooks comedies and being a fixture on the talk-show/variety-show circuit since the 1960s, chubby comedic actor Dom DeLuise finally earned enough clout to star above the title in two big-studio comedies at the end of the 1970s (Hot Stuff and Fatso) after becoming the unofficial sidekick of then No. 1 box-office star Burt Reynolds.  After hilariously stealing the show in the Reynolds-directed The End (1978), DeLuise himself decided to take a turn as a star/director on Hot Stuff (1979), and the results were very amusing.


Hot Stuff was a better comedy than most gave it credit for, and next up for DeLuise was another project of a star pulling the double duty of acting and directing.  In this case it was Anne Bancroft directing for the first (and only) time, and the movie was called Fatso. Produced by Brooksfilms, the production company owned by Bancroft's husband, Mel Brooks, Fatso is a comical variation of 1955's Marty, the great film starring Ernest Borgnine as an overweight, middle-age Italian-American bachelor who belatedly finds love.  But while Marty was a gentle drama about loneliness, Fatso is an often-boisterous comedy that focuses a lot more on the compulsive overeating of its main character, Dom DiNapoli (DeLuise), who could easily pass for a cousin of Borgnine's Marty.


Ever since he was a baby, Dom DiNapoli loved to eat.  Whenever he was upset as a child, his Italian mother used food as the panacea to whatever ailed him.  Dom's favorite cousin was Sal because Sal always "had something good on him to eat."  Sal grows up to be even larger than Dom, and Fatso begins with cousin Sal's untimely death at 39 due to obesity.


Dom runs a New York City card shop with his high-strung sister, Antoinette (Bancroft), and lives upstairs of Antoinette and her family with his also single younger brother, Frankie Jr. (Ron Carey, best remembered as Levitt on Barney Miller).  The death of Sal causes Antoinette to start worrying about Dom's weight.  Soon she persuades her brother to go on a strict diet, but that's easier said than done for a man whose very passion is delicious, high-calorie food.  Before long, Frankie Jr. is locking the refrigerator and kitchen cabinets with chains, Dom joins a support group of fellow overweight dieters named Chubby Checkers, and tempers continually flare in the DiNapoli household as poor Dom tries to resist temptation.  After a couple of uproarious lapses, Dom's only ray of hope comes in the form of a pretty blonde of Polish and Italian ancestry named Lydia (Candice Azzara), who works down the street.  Dom discovers when he's around Lydia suddenly his mind isn't always on food.


Fatso is an underrated, hilarious comedy with a lot of heart.  What makes it work is that writer-director Bancroft fills her movie with seemingly authentic characters who are refreshingly alive with big emotions.  Bancroft, herself an Italian-American, seems to know this world well, an old-fashioned community of good food, Church bazaars and no mincing of words where being a Catholic meant something.


My only quibble with the film, though, is also something I remember mentioning after leaving the theater when I saw this as a kid: Dom DeLuise really isn't fat enough in Fatso to the point where he's dangerously overweight.  When Fatso was filmed DeLuise was simply a chubby guy who could have afforded to lose about 30 pounds, but he would get much heavier in subsequent years and really turn into the obese person the title implies.


Fatso is another title from the 20th Century Fox catalog that Anchor Bay is distributing on DVD.  The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer has pretty good picture quality for a non-remastered title that's 26 years old, and the Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono sound is merely acceptable.  When Fatso was first announced for DVD release over a year ago, an audio commentary with Anne Bancroft was listed among the extras.  Sadly, Bancroft passed away before the first DVD release date in 2005, and Fatso didn't become available for another year.  There's no Bancroft commentary after all on the new DVD.  The only extras included are the original theatrical trailer and Anchor Bay's always much-appreciated miniature reproduction of the original theatrical poster inside the DVD case.



-   Chuck O'Leary


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