The Checco train started at full speed with the comic’s first film Cado Dalle Nubi (I Fall From The Clouds, 14 million euro at the box office), Che Bella Giornata (What A Beautiful Day, 44 million), Sole A Catinelle (51 million), and finally Quo Vado, a blockbuster that has brought in, to date, about 65 million.
Quo Vado is the highest grossing Italian film of all time and the second highest ever of all films at the Italian box office (Avatar beat it by about a million). Written by and starring Checco Zalone (stage name of Luca Medici) and directed by Gennaro Nunziante, it’s about a guy named Checco (as usual), a racist, sexist, homophobic nitwit with a heart of gold.
I know how it sounds, but stay with me.
Checco decided from an early age that his classmates who aspired to become doctors, lawyers and musicians had it all wrong. Checco knew what he wanted from an early age: an easy government job and job security, and in Italy that comes in the form of a “posto fisso”, a job virtually impossible to get fired from. Little Checco’s make-believe involved putting on a little suit and sitting behind a little desk in a pretend office, rubber stamping stacks of papers and answering phones.
“Hello, Uncle? Let me call you back. I don’t have to pay for the call.” Because the office is paying, just like it does in all good office jobs.
Checco’s got it made, with a job that will (supposedly) be forever, a girlfriend that is at his beck and call (because she’s riding that “posto fisso” gravy train for all it’s worth), and a good old Italian super mom who does the same, because she adores her mammone (mamma’s boy).
Problems arise with a change in the political climate and government attempts to end bureaucracy, but Checco is determined not to give up his sure thing and he digs his heels in, DEEP. An official, La Dottoressa Sironi (played by Sonia Bergamasco from La Meglio Gioventù) is assigned to transfer employees to undesirable locations in order to force them into quitting, but she’s met her match when Checco’s file lands on her desk.
She stews as Checco cheerfully finds the good in every transfer, and just when it looks like she can’t shake him up, Checco finds himself at the North Pole, wondering if he’s going to have to surrender. But wait, there’s a pretty colleague that he’s to work closely with, so problem solved. He’s found the good in the North Pole.
Quo Vado is so very politically incorrect (as all of Zalone’s films are) that I’m dying to know what Americans would make of him. Rapid fire one-liners that are offensive about 50% of the time and rampant, wall-to-wall stereotypes are, and I don’t make this statement lightly, VERY FUNNY. I don’t know what this says about me and I don’t care. I laugh. Out loud.
Did I wince just a little in the African jungle scenes with Checco telling his story to a primitive, loincloth wearing African tribe? Yes, of course. “Italians have big heads and small hearts”, the chief tells Checco.
“Only in the north”, shrugs Checco.
When Checco ends up in Norway, comparing Italian and Norwegian stereotypes is done pretty cleverly, and again, it’s laugh out loud funny. You’re going to want to see Checco with a blond viking beard, embracing Nordic manners and learning the language.
Zalone has said that he’d like to cross over to American audiences, and his scheduled appearance at this year’s ICFF in Canada may be a sign that he’s serious about winning over North America.