Johnny Stecchino [1991]

During its release, this was the most popular film of all time in its native Italy. A typical Roberto Benigni comedy of mistaken identity, this 1991 work stars the actor-director in two roles, one a tough mafioso named Toothpick and the other a meek bus driver who is the gangster's look-alike. When the bad guy's girlfriend comes on to the clueless innocent--and she brings him along to her Sicilian villa--the slapstick madness rolls into high gear. Benigni really is a very funny and often remarkable clown, and he employs his usual physical gags in great and gratifying abundance. His script's inspiration reaches several peak moments when the mysteries between light and dark doppelgangers are suggested. One could reasonably call this sort of Jekyll-and-Hyde tale the closest Benigni has yet come to making his version of Jerry Lewis's The Nutty Professor. --Tom Keogh

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