News Column

Out of sync 'The Family' falls short of expectations

September 19, 2013

YellowBrix

Sept. 19--There are some positive elements in play in "The Family" -- the new dark comedy featuring Robert DeNiro and Michelle Pfeiffer -- but the high points are overshadowed in a film that never quite finds its stride.

This is a movie that just doesn't click, despite the best efforts of the cast and writer/director Luc Besson.

DeNiro and Pfeiffer play Fred and Maggie, who, along with their son Warren (John D'Leo) and daughter Belle (Dianna Agron), are forced to move from one location to another after being placed in the witness protection program when Fred, a former mob boss, snitches on his former cohorts.

Their latest stop is a small village in France where the family is once again having a hard time adjusting, even with the best efforts of the CIA agent in charge of watching over them played by Tommy Lee Jones.

Things are further complicated when the mafia tracks down the family, determined to get justice on Fred and his family.

DeNiro and Pfeiffer are OK here, but their presence in "The Family" ultimately overshadows the film because you've seen both do much better with similar material. Pfeiffer has played the mob wife in "Married to the Mob," and DeNiro has made a career out of playing a mob guy. The film even uses "Goodfellas" as a pay-off for one gag, serving as an even stronger reminder of a better movie.

"The Family" is at its best when it focuses on the children. Leo has some nice moments as Warren, a confident young man who sees his new school as a chance to run angles and shakedowns that would make his father proud.

But the real revelation is Agron, who is probably best known for the TV show "Glee." She is a delightful mix of teen angst and sweet innocence, combined with some alarming violent and psychotic tendencies.

When Agron is on screen, "The Family" is at its best.

But there is not enough Agron and too many scenes where the tone is all over the map -- culminating in a blood bath of a final act that feels like it belongs in another movie.

Also in theaters

One of this week's other new releases is a small gem that deserves a chance for a larger audience -- the teen romantic drama "The Spectacular Now" (A).

This film is pretty spectacular, a beautiful portrait of young love that feels authentic and is totally engaging.

Miles Teller stars as Sutter, a high school senior who is the life of the party and seems to have all the answers but is actually uncertain about what the future holds.

When he is dumped by the girl he thinks is the love of his life, he finds himself drawn to Aimee (Shailene Woodley), a shy but very bright girl who has never really been in a relationship.

At first Sutter insists their relationship is just a friendship, but it soon evolves into something much more, with both realizing they are a lot more alike than they first thought.

I can't say enough about how much I enjoyed this film.

Woodley and Teller have great chemistry together, with Woodley building off her strong work in "The Descendants." You really grow to like both characters and are rooting for their relationship to work.

But what makes "The Spectacular Now" so great is that it is more than just their relationship. Sutter is a flawed kid, with some dark traits that can be traced to emotional baggage from his estranged father (Kyle Chandler). This leads to some surprising turns that aren't always positive but feel believable and give the film an even stronger emotional base.

It's been a good 12 months for the coming-of-age genre, with films like "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" and "The Way, Way Back" capturing what it is like to be a teen.

"The Spectacular Now" is even better than both of those films, hitting all the right notes. There is not one misstep in the entire film. It's one of the best films of 2013 to date.

"The Spectacular Now" is rated R for alcohol use, language and some sexuality -- all involving teens, and is now playing at the Regal Bowling Green Stadium 12.

-- To get sportswriter/movie reviewer Micheal Compton's thoughts on all things movies, visit his blog at mcompton.wordpress.com or his Twitter page at twitter.com/mcompton428. Email him at mcompton@bgdailynews.com.

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(c)2013 the Daily News (Bowling Green, Ky.)

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