Sept. 12--Apparently, "The Family" that slays together, stays together.
That seems to be the message of the sloppy, tone-challenged "The Family." The characters played by Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Dianna Agron and John D'Leo may be sadistic murderers, every single one of 'em, but at least they have each other and the home to which they barely cling.
Placed in witness protection and repeatedly relocated because they keep killing people in their new hometowns, the members of the Blake family are starting over again in a quaint village in Normandy. At least, it's quaint until they start blowing it to smithereens.
Director/co-screenwriter Luc Besson ("The Professional") may be the most humorless director in the business. Even if that weren't true, he has set himself a tricky task: He's trying to make a dark comedy of exaggeration in which we embrace the mobbed-up main characters despite their criminal behavior and their wildly divergent versions of New Yawk accents.
Besson also thinks the movie contains moments of romantic tragedy, of wistful family drama, of teen pathos and, in what may be the worst virginity-lost scene in the history of film, of torrid sexuality. Bizarrely, Besson also tries to shift from making fun of the main characters to sentimentalizing them.
Just a few more examples of what a mess "The Family" is: There's a failed in-joke in which De Niro's character, Fred, appears at a film screening to answer questions about the randomly chosen "Goodfellas," but the questions do not include, "Um, wasn't that you starring in that movie?" Agron, 27, plays a high school student. Everyone in the quaint French village happily speaks English all of the time. And the one improbability that works: In flashback scenes, the spectacular-looking Pfeiffer talks and looks uncannily like the woman she played in "Married to the Mob" 25 years ago.
By the way, "Married to the Mob" is a movie that pulls off everything "The Family" fails to do. Give it a go instead.
Movie critic Chris Hewitt can be reached at 651-228-5552 or follow him on twitter.com/ChrisHMovie.
Directed by: Luc Besson
Starring: Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer
Rated: R, for bloody violence, strong language and drug use
Should you go? No. Besson's the one who should consider going underground. *
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