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Little Greek Godfather October 12, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Movies Life Greek.
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Little Greek Godfather, Comedy, Greece, 95 minutes > A fish-out-of-water tale featuring hedgehogs, politics and overeating in 1960s Crete

Psifalakia, or “little votes”, is one of the first local words 11-year-old Alex (Tex Pardue) learns when his father, a sombre opposition leader of a new Greek political party, sends him to Crete in his place to rally up votes by baptising local politico Panagakis’  (Antonis Kafetzopoulos) baby girl.

Arriving in 1960s Crete with his basketball in a bag slung over his shoulder, Alex realises the mission is harder than he feared. The Greek speech his father wrote for him to recite is just as difficult for the half-Greek boy that grew up in California as the bewildering Cretan dialect. At best, while trying to win the support of two feuding families in traditional dress, Alex is subjected to etiquette coaching, faces hostile comments like, “this one looks like an American” and finds allies in Panagakis’ children. At worst, he must eat things like snails on social visits and is pursued in the mountains by angry Cretan men with rifles.

little_greek_godfather1.jpg  Tex Pardue and Nikos Andreoulakis 

There is lots of potential, not just for comedy, but also for political insight, in the film based on a 2001 autobiographical story by Nikos Papandreou, son of Pasok founder Andreas Papandreou. But the script, co-written by Papandreou and director Olga Malea, often feels like it’s stalling, with its Cretan gags and the boy’s language trouble, rather than submitting to madcap comedy.

This is obvious, for instance, in a scene where Alex visits one of the feuding families and promises them exactly what the other feuding family wants, then has to retract his promises for the psifalakia’s sake. A recurring joke involving the hedgehogs that Panagakis runs over and his son obsessively protects outlives its welcome too. Though he goes through a series of tests, there is never a strong sense of Alex being in real danger.

On the plus side, the performances are good, and the film, set in the countryside like most of Malea’s work, is slick and colourful. Comedian Kafetzopoulos is excellent in the caricatured role of the villager-turned-political-wanna-be who is frustrated with the youngness of the godfather, while doggedly pursuing power and money in the name of “Democracy”. He is the perfect foil for Pardue’s Americanised hero. As outsider Alex, Pardue draws in people’s sympathy but also makes them laugh, never trying to be “cute”.

little_greek_godfather2.jpg  Pardue and Antonis Kafetzopoulos lead a chase scene 

The film’s strongest card is its dialogue. Words, Alex’s dad tells him, are the weapons of the opposition. Sometimes, in deceptively light moments, there are insights about the nature of power. Panagakis’ wife (popular actress Eleni Kastani) marvels, for instance, when she catches Alex practising his speech, saying, “Children of politicians do that, instead of saying their prayers, they say speeches.”

The movie also offers healthy servings of hilarious Cretan dialect. Together with Kafetzopoulos and Kastani’s popularity, this may combat the release’s poor timing (coming after the electoral defeat of the party of grown-up Alex, or George Papandreou) and translate into box office magic. But though the elements are there, there is a forced feeling to the comic timing.

Showing at following theaters in Athens > Alexandra, Atlantis, Cine City, Cinerama, Embassy, Galaxias, Glyfada, Calypso, Odeon Cinephiloi, Odeon Cosmopolis, Odeon Mayia, Odeon Starcity, Ster (Ilion, St Eleftherios), Village (The Mall, Rendi, Pangrati, Faliro).

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