April 16, 2010 at 1:00 am

Tom Long Film Review: 'City Island' -- GRADE: B-

Review: 'City Island' is an amiable Bronx tale

Julianna Margulies and Andy Garcia star. (Anchor Bay Entertainment)

The Rizzos are a family of liars.

Prison guard dad Vince (Andy Garcia) wants to be an actor; so he's taking classes, telling his wife, Joyce (Julianna Margulies), he's going to poker games. Both Joyce and Vince spend a lot of time hiding their cigarette habits from one another, since each has supposedly quit.

Daughter Vivian (Dominik Garcia-Lorido, Garcia's real-life daughter) is supposed to be attending college, but she actually works as a stripper. And teen son Vince Jr. (Ezra Miller) has a thing for big, beautiful women. He likes to feed them.

It's that kind of family, amiably dysfunctional. In "City Island" a lot of yelling goes on -- City Island is a small island that's part of the Bronx, so naturally there's yelling -- but it's always clear these people love one another.

Still, it's a nice setting for a disruptive influence, and Vince discovers that influence sitting in a prison cell. It's a son he abandoned as a young man, before meeting Joyce.

So now he takes car thief Tony (Steven Strait) home to his messy family; but he doesn't bother telling anyone -- including Tony -- that Tony is his kid.

Mix in an audition for a Martin Scorsese movie and the encouragement of his acting partner Molly (Emily Mortimer), and Vince has a big, quirky sitcom of a situation going.

Will Joyce or Vivian hit on the dreamy Tony; will Tony hit on them? Will Tony hate Vince for abandoning him? Will Molly develop feelings for Vince? And what the heck is up with the kid's penchant for obese women?

Writer-director Raymond De Felitta is essentially offering a kinky-comic New Yawk version of a Greek tragedy here, and even if the whole thing is pretty implausible, it's also fairly entertaining.

Garcia gets most of the camera time, but Margulies and Strait shine in awkward roles, and De Felitta's message comes through clear: The only thing worse than having a family is not having one.