United Grocery Outlet had a great deal on some provolone cheese the other night, and I bought some and I’m using it in dinner tonight.
Provolone cheese always makes me think of Tim Curry, and one of the most criminally-underrated comedies in movie history, “Oscar.” It was slammed by some critics and ignored by the movie-going audience, but it’s one of my favorites — and it seems like it only turns up on TV once in a blue moon.
“Oscar” (1991) is a comedy starring Sylvester Stallone, and it tends to get lumped in with “Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot!” by people who’ve never seen it. “Oscar,” however, is much more of an ensemble piece — and Stallone is well-used in it.
Stallone plays an early 1930s gangster, “Snaps” Provolone. Before the opening credits, he makes a promise to his dying father (Kirk Douglas!) that he will go straight. But old habits are hard to break, as Provolone and his henchmen (Peter Riegert and Chazz Palminteri, both wonderful) discover.
The plot is a wonderful, breakneck mashup of farcical conventions, including mistaken identities and three mixed-up identical suitcases (one full of money, one full of jewels, one full of lingerie). One of Provolone’s employees asks for his daughter’s hand in marriage while simultaneously confessing to embezzlement.
Provolone’s new career as a legitimate businessman depends on his proposed investment of some of his ill-gotten gains in a bank, and he’s trying to develop a more businesslike manner in keeping with what he thinks will be his highly-visible role at the bank. To that end, he brings in two top-of-the-line tailors, the Finucci brothers (Harry Shearer and Martin Ferrero), as well as a prissy diction coach played by Curry. Provolone’s wife is played by Ornella Muti, and his strong-willed daughter by Marisa Tomei.
Everyone else in the movie pronounces “Provolone” to rhyme with “phone,” but Curry refers to his client as “Mister Provo-LOH-nay.” That’s what I hear in my head every time I look at a package of provolone cheese.
Meanwhile, both the police and rival gangsters are keeping a close eye on Provolone, not knowing of his intention to go straight and thinking that he’s planning some new criminal enterprise.
In addition to Kirk Douglas’ pre-credits cameo, the movie features two other classic movie names: Don Ameche, as a priest, and Eddie Bracken, as a stuttering stool pigeon.
I just think the whole movie is goofy, deliberately-old-fashioned fun, start to finish. I used to have a VHS tape, which I loaned someone and never got back (not that I have a way to play it now anyway). I really need to find out if this movie is on any of the streaming services.