Sugary Romance

Even before the explosion of Jane Fonda’s workout tapes and studies on sugar consumption, Fatso found the problem with America’s obesity epidemic. It’s multi-stage. In one key scene, Dom DeLuise grabs his TV remote, flips through channels, and all of them run ads for dessert foods. Sugar is money. It still is.

Then there’s New York, perfectly innocent in this movie. Warming and inviting, with small businesses lining the streets and a melting pot of people. But, there’s a window display of cakes. DeLuise’s character sells danishes. The pizza parlor down the street sets records for pepperoni. In 1980, $40 buys two stuffed bags full of Chinese food. Food cannot be escaped, and neither can the temptation to eat.

DeLuise was a national treasure. He’s at his best in Fatso. Part of the film feels biographical as the actor struggled with weight and overeating his entire life. Here he plays a well-fed Italian addicted to food. Fatso balances comedy and drama, sometimes awkwardly, but settles into a beautiful center by the end. The opening is a funeral, dropping mournful tears countered by Italian tropes played up for a gag. Then, a coffin so wide, it doesn’t fit in the grave. That comical morbidity sends DeLuise on a mission to find himself – his skinny self, anyway.

A smile and a laugh go a long way toward success; Fatso provides plenty of both

Fatso’s key is never falling to dishonesty. It’s a bit kooky and played up for the sake of humor, yet never unreal. The soft core is primarily DeLuise, with writer/director/co-star Anne Bancroft his opposite as a screeching mother. Eventually, Fatso becomes a romance, DeLuise paired with the sweet Candice Azzara. Pulled out of his depressive funk, suddenly the diets work. Love solves all.

That’s not emotional manipulation. Fatso is earnest is believing the key to such problems is love – whether loving someone else or just ourselves. Breaking away from isolation means moving away from the refrigerator. Accurate? Maybe. Fatso came too early to understand the reality of American foods, but for its purposes, Fatso finds a genuine resolution.

It isn’t a spoiler to say this ends happily. That’s the type of topper Fatso requires. A smile and a laugh go a long way toward success; Fatso provides plenty of both.

This was Bancroft’s only writing or directing credit, and that’s a shame. She had tremendous talent, a way of mirroring her husband Mel Brooks’ screwball flair and parsing it down into something authentic. Fatso is all her, unique and introspective about Italian living while telling a story that sticks 40 years on.


The important thing to remember is that Fatso is on Blu-ray. Great. Unfortunately, it’s on THIS Blu-ray.

While hardly a disaster, the source print doesn’t have a modern touch. Look for the plain, faded color and extensive dirt. In terms of mastering, cite the fattened grain and obvious ringing. Resolution reaches the status of “poor,” notable only for a handful of close-ups with facial texture.

Weakened sharpness turns Fatso almost dreamlike. Some of the haze is intentional to soften tone. The rest is outmoded mastering. Encoding looks fine. Shout’s transfer doesn’t carry fault at least.

Dull contrast plays into the rudimentary color. Brightness reaches a flat gray aside from direct shots of interior lights. Black levels hardly come into play aside from one emotional sequence set at night. DeLuise looks out at the city from a window, the mediocre contrast clearly lagging.


Serviceable DTS-HD mono keeps dialog freshened. A few exteriors use live recording and audibly sound as such. There’s no dynamic challenge here, while the highs of the score display well within this track.

One instance of popping marks the only audible damage. While older, Fatso sounds appropriate.


Producers Stuart Cornfeld and Mel Brooks speak on the film for 12-minutes, looking back with fondness. Brooks near tears as he speaks of working with his wife. It’s worth a watch. Film historian Maya Montanez Smuckler speaks on the history of women filmmakers in an informative 26-minute talk.

The original Fatso press kit and an image gallery round things off.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

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Dom DeLuise is sensational in the dramadey Fatso, an early look at America’s obesity epidemic with a pleasing (if predictable) resolution.

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