Big Night

Movie review by
Heather Boerner, Common Sense Media
Big Night Movie Poster Image
Delicious adult fare sure to leave you hungry.
  • R
  • 1996
  • 109 minutes

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Characters are shown in bed together, Secondo cheats on his girlfriend.


Some strong language.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters drink and smoke.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Secondo cheats on his girlfriend and lies to his brother. Pascal curses all the time (but it's clearly part of his schmoozing, insincere personality), lies, and manipulates. Many characters drink, and Phyllis drinks to the point of vomiting. Primo and Secondo fight with each other. Some strong language.

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What's the story?

In BIG NIGHT, Secundo ( Stanley Tucci) and Primo (Tony Shalhoub) are Italian immigrant brothers with a dream: to make a successful restaurant offering authentic Italian food. But in the America of the 1950s, there's no Food Network to educate white-bread Americans about risotto or timpano. Instead, they turn up their noses and abandon the restaurant. It's on the verge of bankruptcy when Pascal (Ian Holm), owner of a successful spaghetti-and-meatballs Italian restaurant, offers to bring jazz singer Louie Prima to the restaurant for a special meal. Pascal, who's also loaned Secundo a great deal of money and is trying to convince the brothers to come work for him, promises Prima's visit will save the restaurant. What unfolds is a celluloid and culinary meal designed to save the restaurant.

Is it any good?

Lavish, luscious, and delicious-looking, Big Night hits all the right spots. On the menu of this food-centered comedy is a perfect balance between comedy and pathos. Much like Babette's Feast, Big Night revels in the unique and delicious foods on display. The camera loves them and, truthfully, the viewer might get a little hungry.

Aspiring chefs will love the story line and food, but the plot lines about financial stress and adultery make this more adult fare. Still, mature teens may appreciate the music and food (and young fashion plates may develop an obsession with the Dior New Look). The impressive list of costars includes Marc Anthony, Allison Janney, Campbell Scott, and Isabella Rosselini. In the end, Big Night is a treat probably best enjoyed by adults after the kids go to sleep, maybe with a bottle of wine.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the brothers take care of each other and also pursue their own dreams. Which brother do you most identify with and how would you have handled a similar situation? Families can also talk about their own family history of moving to the U.S. How did the family deal with the struggle between assimilating (as Segundi does) and keeping traditional values (like Primo)?

Movie details

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