A mafia boss and his family are relocated to a sleepy town in France under the witness protection program after snitching on the mob. Despite the best efforts of CIA Agent Stansfield to keep them in line, Fred Manzoni, his wife Maggie and their children Belle and Warren can’t help but revert to old habits and blow their cover by handling their problems the “family” way, enabling their former mafia cronies to track them down.
Genre : Crime/Comedy
Country : USA/France
Robert De Niro : Fred Blake/Giovanni Manzoni
Tommy Lee Jones : Robert Stansfield
Michelle Pfeiffer : Maggie Blake
What began as a morbid comedy ended in an implausible action picture. Judging by the cast, I still expected a more robust movie than that “The Family” ultimately turns out to be. The film is based on the novel “MalaVita” written by Benaquista, which was translated to “Badfellas” as the English version and (can you believe it ?) is also the name of the family dog. From the beginning I knew immediately where this was going. So you can say that this movie was fairly predictable.
Sometimes it was pretty funny. Certainly the dialogues between Robert De Niro and Tommy Lee Jones were hilarious. The moody CIA agent who drags the former mafia boss around from place to place for years already, to protect him and his family against the Mafia members who seek revenge. De Niro and Jones both have such a decrepit face that perfectly suits their characters. De Niro looks as if he just walked out of “Cape Fear“. That guy has a timeless look on his face and is instantly associated with some gangster figure. And Jones walked straight of the “Men in Black” set. The scene where they go to an evening debate, and the planned American movie didn’t arrive on time. As a replacement they play the movie “Goodfellas“. Jones is getting nervous by the minute while De Niro enjoys himself while watching this mob-movie and probably relives his past. A damn hilarious and for me the funniest part in the whole movie. Michelle Pfeiffer played a meaningless role as protective housewife who tries to keep her husband out of trouble, corrects her son when he uses offensive language and holds her daughters hand while pointing out the dangers in the love life of a young woman growing up. The only time she shows that she is married to a notorious gangster, is the moment she blows up a local grocery store. Brilliant !
The daughter Belle, played by Dianna Agron, has a beautiful appearance and looks as if she ran out of the movie “Bilitis” with that 70ish dress with bows and a hazy appearance. The romance that developed between her and the math teacher was obviously required material for this comedy, but wasn’t a significant contribution to the film. I would have preferred to see Belle continue with that mafia-daughter-that-hits-others-with-her-cellphone kind of attitude. The son (John D’Leo) didn’t waste any time and soon emerged as a purebred organizer to get the whole school working for him. A master manipulator and con artist in no time. Terribly exaggerated! What bothered me most was the feeling that it wasn’t really a loving family. It was just a married couple with apparently two adopted children.
The moment I felt that this movie would go completely the wrong way, was the fact that the American Mafia family was housed in a tiny French village and all the people there all speak fluently excellent English . Some of them even with an American accent. And I doubt that the schools in France have the same mentality as in American High Schools. You could expect that the betrayed mafia members would find the running and hiding Manzoni family. The way they found them, was even far-fetched for this movie.
From here it turned into a semi-brutal gangster parody without a bit of a comical touch. The gangsters that appear on the scene are a complete caricature and start to massacre half the village in a nonsensical way. Starting with the police, the fire department, the CIA agents and then the surrounding residents. They are noticed by the Manzoni kids. Belle is sitting on the roof of the church because of her unanswered love. The son is sobbing on a bench in the train station while waiting for a train to Paris, because the school has reprimanded him about his criminal practices. For a son of a alleged mob member, he’s a real softie. Eventually they both turn into true Rambo’s and start to kick some gangsters ass, allthough those guys look professional enough and have enough experience in this terrain.
The major problem with “The Family” is that it’s not really a comedy and not really a crime movie. It wants it both ways and finally fails on both attempts. A cast with stars as De Niro and Pfeiffer can’t save this movie, despite being such heavyweights in the Hollywood landscape.
Quote of Linda Barnard in the Toronto Star: “While Besson knows his way around an action movie, he’s not as adept at comedy The result is an often-violent, occasionally amusing fish-out-of-eau tale That plunks a family of wise. guys in the French countryside with predictable results.“