Thursday, October 24, 2013

Review of THE FAMILY: Dull Gangster Salad

October 24, 2013

This movie has big names like Robert de Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer and Tommy Lee Jones, yet it inexplicably had absolutely no buzz about it at all. This is certainly not a good indicator of a film worth looking into. However, curiosity got the better of me so I still went on and checked it out. Now I understand why we are not hearing much of this film.

"The Family" is about gangster from Brooklyn, Giovanni Manzoni, who had turned to testify against his mafia colleagues. He and his family had been herded off to Normandy in France as part of the witness protection program. There, this family tries very hard to live and integrate into this totally alien society, usually with terrible results given their violent tendencies. But the bigger problem remains, can they really escape the Mob that Giovanni had betrayed even as they crossed the Atlantic? 

The main story with Robert de Niro's character Giovanni/Fred was so predictable and uninteresting. This was only saved by one scene when a film being shown at a community event with Giovanni in attendance was actually one of Robert de Niro's real-life gangster dramas! De Niro was not even showing any effort in his portrayal. He is so used to this character, just going through the motions. He can do this role asleep, and he probably was.

Michelle Pfeiffer, I don't know why she is not getting better film projects than this. She still looks pretty good. I do not understand why her character Maggie goes from so cool (at the supermarket) to so hysterical (at the climactic gun fight). I thought her character was so poorly developed and this was disappointing.

De Niro and Pfeiffer play dad and mom, but it is more of their children and their stories that caught my attention more. Dianna Argon (of "Glee") plays Belle, a teenager with a crush on her math tutor. John D'Leo plays the youngest kid Warren who was able to corner the black market at school. Unfortunately though, these are mere minor subplots of the film, that were not picked up anymore towards the end. 

Tommy Lee Jones is as grouchy, glum and taciturn as before playing the FBI agent protecting the Manzoni family. Dry as toast as ever. I am beginning to think that he cannot play any other type of personality but this.

Overall, this film was a let-down given the promise of its cast. Director-writer Luc Besson is clearly better at actions films ("La Femme Nikita," "Transporter," "Taken," among others) than for comedy. While the action scenes can be exciting, the comedy scenes were strained, OK, mostly unfunny. The whole thing with all its subplots never really gelled as a whole. Everything felt scattered around aimlessly like a tossed salad. But this salad just tastes so-so and forgettable. 5/10.

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