Mafia movie has promise but fails to deliver laughs

By Gina Scialabba:

“The Family” is supposed to be a clever and loving homage to the mobster movie genre. A comedy that pokes fun at some of the greatest cinema ever made—”The Godfather,” “Scarface” and “Goodfellas.”

Director Luc Besson (“La Femme Nikita,” “The Professional”) throws in every Mafia cliché imaginable, including one-dimensional hit men with no conscience, all-powerful crime syndicates and Italians who swear a lot with very short tempers carrying big guns and eating mountains of pasta.

It’s a storyline we know all too well. A former Mafia boss becomes an informant (or

“snitch” in Mafia-speak) for the FBI and testifies against his “family.” These are the

men who made him, who killed for him and who covered up for him.

Now, he and his real family played by Michelle Pfeiffer (“Scarface,” “The Fabulous Baker Boys”), Dianna Agron (“Glee”) and John D’Leo (“The Wrestler,” “Brooklyn’s Finest”) are in the witness protection program and are in danger of being murdered because of the betrayal.

Sound familiar? Didn’t Ray Liotta play that character before? Yep.

So, who better to portray snitch Giovanni Manzoni than the one and only Academy

Award winner Robert De Niro (“The Untouchables,” “Casino”).

De Niro actually co-starred in Goodfellas as master thief Jimmy Conway, barreling his way through a murderous world of drugs, bank robberies, extortion and money laundering. His performance in that film was priceless.

Unfortunately, “The Family” pales in comparison. It’s full of Italian-American stereotypes that lack little basis in reality.

Pfeiffer blows up a grocery store when she’s angry, but then goes home and cooks ravioli. Agron beats up another girl for a cell phone, but falls madly in love with her math tutor.

De Niro decides to put the plumber in a body cast because he didn’t like what he had to say, but he’s really just a misunderstood teddy bear wanting to express himself with his new hobby as a “writer.”

Anger management counseling may serve this family well.

The story places De Niro and his brood in the small French village of Normandy. They’ve been on the run for several years having to relocate constantly, usually when one of the Manzoni family commits a heinous crime such as mayhem, terrorist threats, assault with great bodily injury, and yes, even murder.

Despite Agent Stansfield’s (Tommy Lee Jones) best efforts to keep them in line, De

Niro, Pfeiffer and their children can’t help resorting to old habits by handling their problems the “family” way.

Of course, the jokes are meant to center around how they adapt to life in small town France while staying one step ahead of assassins dispatched by his now incarcerated former colleagues.

The movie really doesn’t produce any laughs and instead becomes quite dark.

The acting is decent. No one plays a mob boss better than De Niro. Pfeiffer puts on a pretty good New Jersey accent. Tommy Lee Jones is the cranky, level-headed member of law enforcement. Nothing surprising.

Yet, in watching one of the greatest actors of our time sleepwalk through this terrible script, you almost feel sad.

Should you go see this movie? To use the idiom of Hugh Grant in “Mickey Blue Eyes,”


If you go…

Running Time: 110 Minutes

Genre: Comedy/Crime

US Release Date: September 13, 2013

MPAA Rating: R

Directed by Luc Besson

Written by Luc Besson and Michael Caleo

Based on Tonino Benacquista’s novel, “Malavita”


Robert De Niro

Michelle Pfeiffer

Tommy Lee Jones

Dianna Agron 

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