One of the drawbacks to a sudden rise to stardom is that early movies the actor might then rather have stay buried quickly see the light of day. Such is the story with "Tarantella," an earnest but weak little film that would be gathering dust on a distributor's shelf if not for Mira Sorvino's Oscar-nominated breakthrough performance in "Mighty Aphrodite." Sorvino stars here as Diana Di Sorella, an ambitious big-city photographer who has done her best to distance herself from her working-class Italian roots but is forced to revisit the old neighborhood when her widowed mother dies and Diana must oversee the dismantling of the family estate. Once home, Diana is visited by her mother's best friend, Pina (Rose Gregorio), who cooks her gnocchi and begins to translate tidbit by tidbit, from her mother's "Libro di Casa," a scrapbook of recipes, sketches and, most importantly, stories of the mother's experience as an immigrant. Director/co-writer Helen De Michiel, heavy-handed throughout, suffers from a glacial sense of pacing, but she provides one interesting innovation: illustrating the tales of the family history with a traditional Italian puppet show designed by Sandy Spieler. Other than that, "Tarantella" plays out on the level of an "Afterschool Special," and an awkward one to boot, with Sorvino's endearing performance not quite saving the day. As skeletons in the closet go, "Tarantella" is relatively harmless, and it reaffirms Sorvino's status as an actress with a bright future. Starring Mira Sorvino, Rose Gregorio, Matthew Lillard and Frank Pellegrino. Directed by Helen De Michiel. Written by Helen De Michiel and Richard Hoblock. Produced by George LaVoo. A Tara release. Drama. Not rated. Running time: 87 min.