Plot: Gina (Shiri Appleby) has returned home after finishing college and her family couldn’t be happier. But her family’s plan for her life is much different than her own, with her father Lou (Michael Badalucco) insistent that she should become a teacher and settle down, so he can have grandchildren. He even has a suitor in mind, but of course, Gina has her own ideas on what to do with her future. Meanwhile, her family’s pizzeria is involved in quite the clash, as a rival pizza place challenges them at every turn, as both are run by passionate families who claim to have the best pizza in town. In the middle of the rivalry, Gina meets Joe (Eyal Podell) and the two have an instant spark, but he happens to be the son of Vinnie (Dan Hedaya), who runs the rival pizza joint. While she tries to navigate this tricky situation and find a compromise, can she ever convince her family to give up the silly rivalry?
Entertainment Value: As you can tell from the synopsis, this is a new spin on Romeo and Juliet, with forbidden romance and of course, rival pizzerias. As this was a made for television movie from ABC Family, the film aims for light laughs and romance, in a family friendly package. The narrative is fine, with enough of the time honored story in here to remind you what the inspiration was, but also borrowing from romantic comedy tropes to keep things genre appropriate. In other words, this romance isn’t a tragic one and it plays more like a bouncy comedy than a doomed drama, but does anyone expect dramatic depth from a movie titled Pizza My Heart? The movie delivers what fans of the genre likely want, a brisk pace, some light romance, and a safe sense of humor, which means it winds up as a watchable, middle of the road kind of picture. I wouldn’t have minded sharper writing or less predictable plot points, but this does what it needs to and fans of ABC Family comedies should appreciate this one.
This tale of romance and mozzarella is very much an ensemble piece, with both families filled with colorful characters, but Shiri Appleby manages to stand out from the crowd and hand in the most memorable performance. She mostly gives puppy eyes and swoons, but it fits for this kind of light, brisk material and she has a lot of charm, which helps as one of the central characters in a romance. There’s not much chemistry between Appleby and her star crossed pizza love Eyal Podell, but the movie is more comedy than romance, so it’s not a real concern. I think Appleby is likable here and fun to watch, which is about all you can ask in a film like Pizza My Heart. Dan Hedaya and Michael Badalucco add some fun moments as the boisterous rival fathers, though both are relegated to smaller roles than I would have liked. The cast also includes Joanna Canton, William Ragsdale, and Gina Hecht.