Review: The Family
PLOT: A notorious Mafia family is relocated to France after being placed under the Witness Relocation Program. For them however, finding a new and peaceful way of life becomes a near impossible task.
REVIEW: At one point near the end of the terribly humorless comedy from Luc Besson, THE FAMILY, the movie GOODFELLAS is mentioned and shown for a film society in the small town of Normandy, France. We, as the audience, hear Ray Liotta’s crackling dialogue and that great music and for a brief second… entertainment. It was the single best thing about this dreadful new film starring Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer as a husband and wife who along with their son and daughter have entered the Witness Relocation Program. You see, Giovanni Manzoni (De Niro) snitched on his Mob family and now he is transported to this small town in France after several other attempts to start a new life without crime. However, this family just can’t stop blowing up, stabbing, or beating up anyone and everything that causes them any grief.
There is nothing wrong with a cynical dark comedy if it’s funny. However, this rambling mess of a movie introduces us to the grim and depressing Manzoni (currently going by Blake) family including De Niro, Pfeiffer and their two teenagers played by Dianna Agron and John D’Leo. They mope about and follow along with a script that offers up nearly every cliché you can think of. This includes the Italian mafia, the American hating French, and even a lame and painfully obvious teenage crush that has no business being in this film. With a script by director Besson and Michael Caleo – based on the book by Tonino Benacquista – the humor is lazy and effortless without any real direction. It begins with the family already living in France and it proceeds to go nowhere fast. It isn’t until near the end when one of the guys that Manzoni sold to the Feds finds out where they may be hiding. How he figures it out is one of the most ludicrous moments in a movie that is filled with them.
De Niro and Pfeiffer do with this what they can, yet somehow they don’t seem all that inspired to put in much work. Both are terrific actors yet even they can’t liven up this lame attempt at action comedy. As far as Agron and D’Leo go, they are fine actors, yet their brother and sister relationship is extremely odd. At times it damn near seems incestuous as they never fight or traumatize each other. All they seem to do is hug and show their support for each other after one of them does something horrible to somebody else. Tommy Lee Jones joins in on the fun as well and he does what is required and he is good at it. The fact that these characters are paper thin without any rhyme or reason makes it difficult for them to really bring these people to life.
Besson clearly has a flair for action, but this is not a good example of that in any way, shape, or form. Even the violent sequences come across as dull and repetitive. During the climax of the film, which is beyond ridiculous as well, there are guns blazing and bodies flying without any real thrill or tension. It’s not hard to figure out exactly where the story is going. The challenge is trying to care about any of it. Hell, if they had killed off the Manzoni family within the first ten minutes it would have probably been a blessing in disguise. The entire structure of the film is haphazard and feels almost as if they were desperate to edit together one film out of three or four different ones. So much so that every time they offer a subplot, it is sloppily handled to the point even the filmmakers seems to lose interest.
Truly the biggest problem with THE FAMILY is that it is simply not funny. The jokes are obvious and a few of the best gags were in the trailer so you already know they are coming. Dark humor is one thing, but this is just four characters that have no substance whatsoever. It is Jones who offers some sort of life with one of the single likable characters in the film. He and De Niro even manage to make for a couple of near amusing scenes. Predictable, dull and chaotic, THE FAMILY is one of the least funny comedies of the year. Do yourself a favor and just rent MARRIED TO THE MOB – a far more entertaining Jonathan Demme directed flick that Pfeiffer did in 1988. Even GOODFELLAS has more intentional humor than this lame excuse for a comedy.
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