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MYSTIC PIZZA. Directed by Donald Petrie; written by Amy Jones, Perry Howse, Randy Howze and Alfred Uhry; produced by Mark Levinson and Scott Rosenfelt. Starring Julia Roberts, Annabeth Gish and Lili Taylor.


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"Mystic" doesn't mean anything supernatural here. It just refers to the movie's lovely locale—Mystic, Connecticut. And, of course, to a pizza parlor where Mystic Pizza's three main characters are waitresses.

Mystic Pizza is a delightful movie about refreshingly realistic characters. They're young and attractive, true, but they don't always know what to say or what to do or how to feel. You know, like normal people.

The movie's tone is generally upbeat, with plenty of unforced, mostly gentle humor. But it's also romantic, so there's some unhappiness in evidence as well. It's definitely not a tearjerker, though.

Three women share center stage here and they're played by unfamiliar, but very talented, actresses. All three are developed into well-rounded characters that look beyond their superficial "types"—the vamp Daisy (Roberts) and the egghead Kat (Gish) and the not-quite-homebody JoJo (Taylor).

The men in their lives are equally well-drawn, in spite of their shorter time on-screen, and well-played. Vincent Phillip D'Onofrio, minus the 75 pounds he put on to play the psychotic recruit in Full Metal Jacket, is a nice-looking guy with a flair for romantic comedy. William R. Moses and Adam Storke round out this fine ensemble.

Mystic Pizza is almost perfectly paced and balanced, with each character getting a chance to contribute both humor and sadness to the overall mix. It avoids the hokiness that often seems inevitable in movies about young romance. And while the basic story contains some of the usual cliches, they're played out with such a fresh, appealing energy that we don't mind.

December 7, 1988

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