The Family slips comfortably into the Mafia comedy genre
Starring Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Dianna Agron. Rated 14A.
Tommy Lee Jones is not even trying in this movie. Even though he has a pretty small role playing an FBI agent in The Family, we still uphold our pledge to always put our trust in Mr. Jones. In this case, the springs are busting right out of the Tommy Lee I-don’t-give-a-goddamn-O-Meter.
Robert De Niro, however, looks happier than he has in ages. Maybe that’s because he’s playing a wise guy named Giovanni who, in the very first scene, removes a deceased person from his car trunk and buries him in the back yard. For De Niro, getting to whack people again must feel like slipping into his favourite plaid bedroom slippers. Also, just a hunch, director Luc Besson (who cowrote) is probably fairly supportive when it comes to psychotic violence.
There is much psychotic violence in The Family. Most of it is committed by Mom (Michelle Pfeiffer), Dad (De Niro), and their two adorable kids (Dianna Agron and John D’Leo), and doesn’t involve disagreements about bedtimes. The family is in the witness-protection program because Giovanni ratted out his Mafia friends (including Dominic Chianese and Vincent Pastore—old home week!). They are relocated to Normandy after Giovanni couldn’t help whacking people in other locations and because a Brooklyn mob family in France is damn funny. Oh, right, it’s not actually that funny.
The actors do their jobs. Pfeiffer squashes together her Scarface and Married to the Mob characters, tolks like a Noo Yawker, and destroys a supermarché. De Niro beats a plumber with a baseball bat (hmm, possibly understandable) and Agron assaults another high-schooler with a tennis racket. Wearing a frilly dress, she hits the kid so viciously that in real life he would be a pulpy dead kid.
Maybe one just wearies of Mafia comedies, even pitch-black ones. There’s a wink-wink meta moment when Giovanni attends a town film-society night—and the movie playing is Goodfellas. Now that’s a whack-y mob movie we can’t refuse.