Wednesday, July 23, 2014

February 23. 2013 2:46PM

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Do you remember how Lady and the Tramp ate spaghetti to the strains of “Bella Notte” in the Disney animated classic?

While that version of the song, written by Peggy Lee and Scranton’s Sonny Burke, is the definitive rendition, the tune also pops up prominently in “ a hidden gem of a romantic comedy written and directed by Paul Brickman (“Risky Business”).

Jessica Lange stars in the movie as Beth Macauley, a widow who, after her husband’s death, is forced to sell her small-town Maryland home and move with her two sons to Baltimore, where a job with a catering firm awaits.

Brickman spins three stories simultaneously. The main tale belongs to Lange and her struggles with a demanding boss (Kathy Bates) and an easygoing boyfriend (Arliss Howard). Also getting plenty of screen time are Lange’s son, 17-year-old Chris (Chris O’Donnell), who’s having an affair with an offbeat older woman (Joan Cusack), and 7-year-old Matt (Charlie Korsmo), who takes up with a pint-size thief (Corey Carrier).

All the stories are simple; the joy is in the characters and their surprising evolutions. Which brings us back to “Bella Notte.” Desperate to impress Lange, Howard chooses this ditty to woo her with.

Sure, he could have sung a more famous tune, such as “Isn’t It Romantic” or “Come Rain Or Come Shine.” But “Bella Notte” does the trick. It’s a lovely song that, like the movie itself, casts a magic spell.

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