On the heels of last year’s surprise hit comedy, Out of This World, starring Pauly Shore and Rob Schneider, I’ve been tasked by studio execs to think up another buddy comedy featuring this dynamic duo. They want another smash hit, another moneymaker, something they can plop down a cool 15 million bucks to produce and just rake in the moolah. I don’t know about 15 million bucks. Last year we got Pauly and Rob for scale and a couple free hot dogs. Now that they’re back on top, they may want more cash. But, that’s not my problem. I’m the idea man. I have problems of my own.
Rob Schneider plays the owner of a pizzeria in Brooklyn. An evil real estate developer, played by Bradley Whitford, is trying to get Rob’s building condemned so he can put up a condo tower. Pauly Shore plays Rob’s employee, a stoner delivery guy who shows up late to work, when he shows up at all, and is always high. He’s also Rob’s roommate, leading to inevitable clashes in the tiny apartment above the pizzeria. Rob has a smoking hot girlfriend he doesn’t deserve, played by Natalie Portman.
Whitford offers Rob a decent-sized pile of cash for the building, but against Portman’s advice, he turns it down. The pizzeria has been in his family for generations, ever since his great-grandfather Giuseppe (played in flashback by Alan Arkin) came over from the old country. Also, the other apartments in the building are occupied by old folks that have been in the neighborhood for a long time, one of whom is an eighty-year-old hooker, and they’d be put out on the street if Rob sold the building.
A good deal of the film is spent exploring Rob’s formative years with his great-grandfather. The old man and Rob’s mother (Toni Collette) were left to basically care for Rob on his own after his grandfather (Arkin with a mustache) and his father (Arkin in a wig) were both sent to prison for being mafia hitmen. Arkin has to be a salty dog, too, really laying on the one-liners on Rob as a boy. He needs to be a lovingly abusive old fart. Then tragedy strikes. The old man has a heart attack in the pizzeria, and he leaves dying words to Rob, now a young man: “Whatever you do, don’t sell this place. You’re too much of a dumb shit to do anything else.” Meanwhile, Rob’s mother never liked the pizzeria, so she takes off with a smooth-talking, gold chain-wearing, real grease ball of a mafia stereotype. She never wanted to leave the life, but when Rob’s father went away to prison, that was it. Now that she has her chance to get away, she’s gone. So long Toni Collette, but thank you for adding another layer of misery to our hero’s life.
Natalie Portman loves Rob, and decides she needs to go see Whitford and convince him to make Rob another offer. At the same time, Rob decides he needs to go see Whitford and take his previous offer. He arrives there after Natalie Portman does and finds the two of them in a compromising position. It’s all a misunderstanding, of course. The audience knows this, but Rob doesn’t. It’s all Whitford’s fault. He came on to Natalie Portman, because that’s the kind of guy he is. It’s not enough to take a man’s business and his home. Hell no. Whitford has to take his woman, too. What slime that guy is. But Rob overreacts to what he sees, says some things he shouldn’t, and storms out of the room. Natalie Portman chases after him, but it’s too late, he’s gone…out alone into a stormy Brooklyn night. Tragic.
This is a good time for a montage. Rob’s walking along the sidewalk, hands in his pockets, looking all depressed and soaked from the rain, and little snippets of the happy times he and Natalie Portman had together play on screen. First meeting at the pizzeria when she came in with her girlfriends for a slice, coming into the pizzeria after they go to prom together for a slice, sitting on a bench out at Coney Island watching the sun rise while eating a slice, all that gooey shit.
Rob’s now back at the apartment, unable to get out of bed. This isn’t good, because now Pauly is left to run the pizzeria, and he’s overwhelmed, to say the least. This also happens to be when a health inspector and a housing inspector, bribed by Whitford, drop in for surprise inspections. The pizzeria is an absolute shambles. Sauce dripping from the ceiling, a little kid pissing in the trash can, a fire in the kitchen, a live chicken running around, etc. Upstairs in the apartments, a set of whacky circumstances has led Pauly’s pet python and it’s rodent food supply to escape from their cages, and they’re running and slithering all over the hallways. This can be set up earlier in the film, with one of Rob’s tenants, a sassy old black retiree in the Helen Martin vein, yelling at Pauly because his snake got loose, again.
Needless to say, the pizzeria gets shut down by the health department, and the housing department closes the rest of the building. But Rob doesn’t blame Pauly. He knows it’s all Whitford, but what can he do? He’s got Rob’s girl, he shut down the pizzeria, and everyone is camping out on the world’s filthiest subway platform. That’s when Pauly gets pissed. He rallies all Rob’s tenants and the folks from the neighborhood who frequent the pizzeria to do whatever it takes to stop Whitford and save the place.
Their idea is to chain themselves to the front of the store to stop the approaching bulldozers. It’s a hopeless plan. But meanwhile, Natalie Portman has been doing some work on her own to save the pizzeria. See, she’s a lawyer, and she discovers that her firm once did some shady work for Whitford. She uses her lawyerly skills to investigate, and uncovers solid evidence of Whitford’s criminal activities. Just as the bulldozers are about to run over Rob, Pauly and crew, she shows up with a police escort. She confronts Whitford with the evidence and he’s led away in handcuffs. To wrap up the film, we see Rob and Natalie Portman’s wedding reception being held at the pizzeria.
The title of this project: Tossing Pie.