Cut through the cute that crosses into “cutesie,” tolerate the stereotypes and ignore the sentiment that claws at cloying, and “Team Marco” plays like a pleasant time killer of a comedy suitable for the whole family.
It’s a “things my Italian grandpa taught me on summer vacation” tale, a bratty child of divorce learning a little about life and a lot about bocce on the eve of his 12th birthday.
Marco, played by Owen Vacarro of “The House with a Clock in Its Walls,” is an iPad and xBox addicted tween determined to pound away at his favorite video game, “Atomic Rick,” in between school years.
“Atomic Rick” was developed by his dad, Richie, who ditched his mom (Anastasia Ganias) and moved to the west coast. “Rick” in the game looks like his Dad Richie (Louis Cancelmi).
And while Richie’s too busy to chat with his kid in person, he’s promised that if Marco masters the game and makes his way up to the top level, he’ll take him to a game convention at the end of the summer.
That’s all Marco thinks about, day and night, even at his grandma’s funeral, even after Grandpa, “Nonno” (Anthony Patellis of “The Sopranos”) burns up his kitchen and has to move in with them.
But Nonno sees a lot of problems when he settles in with his grandson. The kid has no friends. He’s practically agoraphobic, afraid of spending too much time outdoors.
“Mosquitoes carry WEST NILE!”
And his nurse-mom just indulges that, his imagined food allergies, the works. Her dad’s complaints about the kid fall on deaf ears.
“He spendsa-more time with hees tablet than MOSES!”
Events conspire to have Grandpa take on “babysitting.” Thus, does Marco’s “real” education begin, from the back of the old man’s Vespa and on the bocce courts of Staten Island.
“Bocce’s like’a life. It’s not about thinking. You have to FEEL it.”
“Life is ees deliciosa! You just have to bite it!”
Marco’s screen-free summer will not be tolerated — “What am I, Amish?” But what can he do but hang with Nonno’s posse and pick up “the world’s oldest game.”
The conversations with the old men are cute.
“So kid, gotta girlfriend?” “I’m 11!” “So? I was MARRIED when I was 11, divorced at 12!”
“I was fighting for Mussolini at 10!”
“We lie a lot,” Nonno allows.
I’m quoting a lot of dialogue here , because sitcommie as it is, it’s the best thing in “Team Marco.” The jokes about “a whole generation of zombies eating pizza bagels” and gags about tween screen addiction and Google Assistant in the house and grandpa’s inability to master a Keurig coffeemaker are were worn out before this picture went into production.
The same goes for the predictably sentimental touches and the “life lessons.” Meh.
But the kid is properly obnoxious and Patellis amusingly over-the-top. And their banter almost achieves comic lift-off.
If you’ve got three generations in your house for the holidays and need something everybody can watch, you could do worse.
MPA Rating: unrated, worthy of a G.
Cast: Owen Vacarro, Anthony Patellis, Anastasia Ganias
Credits: Directed by Julio Vincent Gambuto, script by Julio Vincent Gambuto and B.R. Uzun. A Samuel Goldwyn release.
Running time: 1:32