Somewhere in Queens

Leo Russo never attended college.  He works construction in his family business, Russo Construction (founded by his father), but he’s not one of the movers and shakers of the business.  He’s well-liked by his co-workers, although he has trouble making it to work on time in the mornings.  While Leo’s life is comfortable, he wishes he could have made more of himself.

Leo’s son “Sticks” (so called because of his long legs and lanky build) is most likely bound for the same fate, save for his basketball skill.  He’s not the best player on his high school team – that guy’s headed for a premier Division One school.  But after a late-season game, a talent scout approaches Leo and his wife Angela, to let them know Sticks is good enough to land a full-ride scholarship at a second-tier Division One school.  The light bulb in Leo’s brain ignites, and before we know it, Sticks is visiting Drexel University in Philadelphia.

Not necessarily a comedy

This is the set-up for Ray Romano’s “Somewhere in Queens,” starring Romano and Laurie Metcalf as Leo and Angela.  Newcomer Jacob Ward plays the shy and socially awkward Sticks.  “Somewhere in Queens” is a mostly interesting story, with a couple unexpected twists, but it is not the laugh-out-loud comedy we might expect, given the casting and director.

Unfortunately for Leo, Sticks is not as interested in the whole idea of playing ball at a Division One school as his dad.  Heck, it’s not even certain he’s interested in furthering his education at all.  But Leo is one of those parents (and aren’t we all, at some point?) who wants more opportunity for his son than he had.  Per Leo, Sticks doesn’t yet understand how important a higher education degree is for him.

Unbelievable plot turn

And Leo will stop at nothing to ensure Sticks gets that education.  When Sticks’ girlfriend Dani (Sadie Stanley) breaks up with him, his game begins to suffer.  He begins to miss easy layups in front of talent scouts.  So, Leo takes the bold step of asking the girlfriend to reunite with Sticks – at least until he bags a scholarship.  As you might expect, this plan actually works.  Until it doesn’t.  There’s something to be said for allowing kids to grow up on their own.  And Leo crosses that line, in the one truly unbelievable development in Romano and Mark Stegemann’s original screenplay.

Rest works nicely

The rest of “Somewhere in Queens” works quite nicely – including a subplot in which Leo is approached, a bit too aggressively, by a recently widowed neighbor, played by Jennifer Esposito.  Leo is friendly to her, but he doesn’t want to upset his marriage to Angela.

And unlike what we might expect from this kind of mainstream film, the Angela character has more depth than meets the eye.  She’s a recent breast cancer survivor, who also cares deeply about Sticks.  Plus, she’s not afraid to speak her mind to Leo.  Metcalf is outstanding, as we might expect, and she hits the right comic notes when the script calls for it.

Mining laughs from Italian family

The Russo’s extended Italian American family is the real joy of “Somewhere in Queens.”  Again, this film is not a comedy in the purest sense of the word.  But the Sunday afternoon dinner table meals are a hoot.  Dani, who comes from a small family, in which her parents don’t seem to care about her well-being, is initially attracted to Sticks in part because of these gatherings.  Veteran character actor Tony Lo Bianco plays Leo’s father and the patriarch of the Russo family.  Unfortunately, he isn’t given much to do comedically.  His character could have been fleshed out a little more.

Not “The Big Sick”

Again, my warning is not to expect a raging laugh fest, like “The Big Sick” – the 2017 romantic comedy in which Romano and Holly Hunter practically stole the show as the concerned parents of a comatose girl whose stand-up comedian boyfriend had never met them until her hospitalization.  That was one of the funniest films of the 2010s.  “Somewhere in Queens” is not really even a comedy.

On the whole, “Somewhere in Queens” is a good little picture – a fine mainstream dramedy about family dynamics in today’s world.  It’s certainly not the best film of the year, and it will probably be long forgotten by this time next year.  It’s not up to par with the recent Tom Hanks vehicle “A Man Called Otto.”  Still, one could see a lot worse fare than “Somewhere in Queens” at the multiplex this spring.







Andy Ray‘s reviews also appear on



© 2024 Copyright Arts Channel Indy. All Rights Reserved.