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Toledo Wont Make Sopranos Squeal

4/02/2000 8:00 PM Eastern

Starz! is the latest outlet to sample the "hoods as personalities" genre. It' s a tough niche to enter, given the high bar set by The Sopranos. Unfortunately, Kiss Toledo Goodbye doesn' t even come close.

It's a muddled mess that approaches moments of slapstick, then veers away to be a near action movie. But it wasn' t very funny, nor exciting-just predictable.

It doesn't help when the only character with real charm gets bumped off before your butt even warms the seat.

Here's da deal: Kevin Gower (Michael Rappaport) is a diligent doofus of an investment analyst. He works hard at his job and at fending off the marriage plans of his girlfriend, DeeAnn (Christine Taylor).

One day, out of the blue, he' s kidnapped and taken to meet Sal, an aging gangster (Robert Forster, the only actor who seems settled into his character). The gangster is Kevin' s real father-news Kevin accepts with only slight incredulity.

After bonding over a hearty Italian meal, Sal gets blown up in his car, leaving Kevin to sort out the story he' s been told.

It seems that Sal and his partners went straight, and Sal hid his money in legitimate investments. But now, one of the partners wants to go back to the dark side, and he' s killed Sal to get the cash.

Now that Kevin has appeared as an heir, the shooters are after him. Sal' s thugs take up his protection. That' s when the movie really slows down. Kevin' s friends and associates aren' t supposed to know about the mob trauma he' s enduring, even though the thugs take him out immediately and buy him a suit that screams, "I'm a mobster."

None of the gang really establishes a real character-not even Christopher Walken, who imbues his enforcer with enough tics to call to mind Tourette' s syndrome.

The plan works: Kevin' s appearance draws out the hit man and a few turncoats, a not-too-surprising ending is sprung and everybody goes legit (after the bodies are buried). In all, it' s just a bowl of cinematic mush with no distinct flavors. And don' t get me started on how much Toledo looks like Los Angeles and Pasadena.

Kiss Toledo Goodbye debuts on Starz! April 15 at 9 p.m.

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