‘The Family’ — more hits than misses

Published 10:23 am Wednesday, October 2, 2013

By Lauren Bradshaw

If you’re looking for an entertaining movie that never takes itself, or its genre, too seriously, you will enjoy Luc Besson’s (“Leon: The Professional”) dark comedy “The Family.” Starring Robert De Niro, “The Family” is the kind of film mob comedy fans will appreciate. From amusing (and violent) sight gags (such as De Niro reacting to disparaging remarks about his grilling) to wink-wink jokes about “Goodfellas” (which also starred Robert De Niro), this film tries to make light of a typically dark subject matter.

However, along with these “hits” the film also has its share of “misses.” For instance, there are serious issues with some of the major plot points in the film. Not to mention a few of the jokes uttered by the characters flopped pretty hard. Thankfully, the good outweighs the bad. As long as you’re looking for an escapist movie that will take your mind off of the busy workweek, “The Family” is a great choice for weekend entertainment.

The storyline for “The Family” is pretty simple. After mobster Giovanni Manzoni (Robert De Niro) rats on his fellow wise guys to the Feds, he and his family must go into witness protection for their own safety. Now known as “the Blakes,” the family moves to a village in the Normandy region of France. Here, their biggest headache is not getting whacked, but assimilating into French culture. For example, Giovanni’s wife Maggie (Michelle Pfeiffer) has issues with the French people’s use of cream instead of olive oil and also has a serious problem acquiring peanut butter (or peanut buttah). The horror!

Because the family’s short temper and penchant for violence cause them to handle common problems “the mob way,” their FBI handler (Tommy Lee Jones) has quite the job cut out for him. Not only does he have to keep the family out of trouble with the local townspeople, he also has to keep them under the radar to ensure the vengeful mobsters Manzoni ratted on do not find the family’s location. After all, what self-respecting Italian mobster would go to France?

I love it when De Niro flexes his comedic chops and this film again proves that even the King Wise Guy can laugh at his own expense. It’s amazing that in basically every role, De Niro finds a way to make his characters likeable; “The Family” is no exception. Even during some of the movie’s most violent scenes, I still enjoyed his character. As usual, Michelle Pfeiffer was also great in her role. Her badass character was probably my favorite part of the film. However, Pfeiffer’s Brooklyn accent was very touch-and-go throughout the movie. Though it wasn’t as terrible as Jodi Foster’s accent in Elysium, it was distracting and unnecessary for her character. Unsurprisingly, Tommy Lee Jones was also in the movie playing Tommy Lee Jones. Yawn.

While I did enjoy this film, I have my issues with some of the major plot points, especially in regard to the way the New York-based mob finds out Blake’s hiding place. Seriously, this aspect of the story is so outrageous, it completely took me out of the movie and had me questioning what Besson (who also co-wrote the screenplay) was thinking. There were so many ways this could have been resolved, however, Besson decided to go with the most ridiculous scenario ever. What was he thinking?

“The Family” excels at what it was meant to be, a fun, amusing look at the Mafia world. Though it has its problems, this mob comedy will certainly entertain you for 100 minutes. Plus, who doesn’t want to see Robert De Niro watching himself in a hilarious meta-“Goodfellas” moment? That alone is worth the price of admission.

My Review: B-