News Column

Weekly rewind

September 19, 2013


Sept. 19--"The Family"

Rating: (on a scale of zero to four stars)

When done right, a gangster comedy with some brains and some blood can become a black comedy favorite, along the lines of "The Freshman" or "Prizzi's Honor" or "Get Shorty."

But too many mob comedies go in the direction of camping up the comedy, which hasn't been original since Al Capone's time, and they go dopey like the cringe-worthy "My Blue Heaven."

A new film, "The Family," is as original as that title.

We meet a family of four moved in the Witness Protection Program to a small town in France. They frequently move, we learn, because they and their criminal ways just don't fit in with the locals.

Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer star as the couple, Giovanni and Maggie. He's a mob guy who snitched years ago on made men who are still hunting him, and she's a tough-chick matriarch, which is about all the definition this lame script could manage.

These actors have done this work before and better, in De Niro's "Analyze This" and Pfeiffer's excellent "Married to the Mob" turn. Pair those as a double-feature and skip "The Family."

The movie has watchable moments, nearly all of them stuffed into the first 15 minutes and the last 15 minutes.

The 80 minutes in between nearly put me to sleep -- but not with the fishes -- because the filmmakers couldn't decide if they wanted to go smart or go lunk-headed, so the movie is a mix of these styles. The result is messy -- bloody messy, at times.

People are beaten with a baseball bat (De Niro gets in a Capone in-joke here, worthy of a snort toward "The Untouchables"), clubbed by a tennis racket (by the teen daughter), blown up (mom gets in on the action) and punched bloody by a gang (the son doesn't work alone).

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Movie Rating (on 4 scale)

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The Family


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