The Trouble With Cali

The Trouble With Cali, directed by Paul Sorvino and filmed in Scranton, Pennsylvania, was partly funded with $500,000 of Lackawanna County’s money. The county commissioners credited as executive producers of the film are now in prison on unrelated corruption charges. Sorvino claims he is unable to find distribution because of negative press the movie received in the Scranton news media. Here’s an audio clip of Paul Sorvino throwing a fit on a local call in radio show.

Sorvino stars as Ivan Bluejones, patriarch of the Bluejones family. Ivan is a city policeman and closeted homosexual who has an affair with a young man over forty years his junior. As a resident of Scranton during the filming of The Trouble With Cali, I like to think my tax money paid for the eyeshadow Sorvino wears during a cross-dressing scene. Ivan is also a former musical conductor; during a flashback scene Sorvino devolves into a blubbering mess after conducting an orchestra at the Scranton Cultural Center. “Now I can be anything I want to be!” the musical genius cries. Sorvino might have imagined The Trouble With Cali would bring him similar recognition as an esteemed director. While intended as a dark family drama, the film is instead a treasure trove of unintentional laughter.


I admit to a love of bad movies. I’ve bought tickets to numerous Rifftrax live events, attended a screening of The Room personally introduced by Tommy Wiseau, and wore out my DVD copy of Birdemic. The Trouble With Cali is the latest disasterpiece to claim a special place in my heart.

While movies like The Room and After Last Season were written and directed by amateurs, The Trouble With Cali is the product of an award-winning family with decades worth of experience in the film industry; Paul Sorvino stars and directs, Oscar-winner Mira Sorvino has a supporting role, and Amanda Sorvino wrote the screenplay. How could a veteran actor like Sorvino make such a sausage?


Here are some of my favorite lines from Amanda Sorvino’s screenplay:

“Mr. Bluejones, are you fucking the boy next door?”
“You should be raped and murdered! That’s what you deserve.”
“I’m as nauseous as a dog in heat.”
“I owe you two hours of oral sex.”


My second viewing of The Trouble With Cali occurred six months later at the Albright Memorial Library, part of the Lackawanna County Library System.

The Scranton Public Library is now the only place in America where you can behold the spectacle that is The Trouble with Cali. Because the movie remains unreleased, and to curb any chance of piracy, you cannot remove the Blu-Ray copy from the building; however, any card-carrying member of the Lackawanna County library system can request a private screening.

This past winter the library hosted a special After Hours film series featuring a double bill of The Trouble With Cali and Russ Meyer’s Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. The movies were preceded by some Looney Tunes shorts, probably because the screening was in the basement of the children’s library and that was the only other DVD on hand.

Once again, I had a blast with The Trouble with Cali and so did the rest of the audience, howling with laughter at the terrible acting, inane dialogue and melodramatic moments.

It was a little odd watching two NC-17 films in a children’s library, but this was well after closing time, and there weren’t any kids in attendance. Still, the explicit onscreen sex and violence weren’t the oddest things I witnessed in the children’s library that night: on my way out I noticed a copy of Pete Towsend’s autobiography, but I digress.

A local newspaper reporter was in attendance; he interviewed me because I’m one of the few people outside of the Sorvino-clan to sat through the movie twice.

For Brandon Hatalski, a controversial film shot in Scranton with $500,000 in Lackawanna County taxpayer money could one day be a cult classic like “Rocky Horror Picture Show” or “The Room” — so bad, it’s good.

So, he jumped at the chance to see “The Trouble With Cali” for a second time when he learned about Friday’s showing in the basement of the Lackawanna County Children’s Library.

“It was great because every directing decision that was made was the wrong one,” Mr. Hatalski said.

Mr. Hatalski said he could see “Cali” being “a midnight movie where people shout back at the screen.” He added that Mr. Sorvino could “make a killing” if he were to re-release it as a cult classic bad movie.

Thanks to The Trouble With Cali, I’m now proud to say I live in Northeastern Pennsylvania. If I lived anywhere else, I never would have such a unique cinematic experience.

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