Distributed By: EuropaCorp
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
I was in need of a decent comedy this week and remembered having enjoyed the promos for The Family, a dark comedy starring Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer and Tommy Lee Jones. Sure, the movie was a couple of years old, but I could use a mindless laugh, so I sat down to check the film out.
The Family, based on the French novel Malavita by Tonino Benacquista, centers around the Manzoni family. A successful Mafia leader, Giovanni Manzoni (Robert De Niro) somehow found himself at odds with Don Luchese (Stan Carp). Deciding it would be within his family's best interests, Giovanni becomes a snitch for the Feds and his family is placed in the Witness Protection Program. Due to issues with keeping a low profile, their handler, Agent Robert Stansfield (Tommy Lee Jones) has been forced to move the Manzoni family from place to place. They've been on the run for ten years.
Now known as the Blakes, Giovanni, AKA: Fred Blake, hopes that a low key life in Normandy will be the key to their survival. He decides to write his memoirs. Meanwhile, his wife Maggie (Michelle Pfeiffer) finds herself at odds with the locals who look down their nose at the new Americans in town. Their children, Belle (Dianna Agron) and Warren (John D'Leo) head off to school and try to blend in. Of course, it's not long before they all find themselves in trouble. Fred breaks some bones on the local plumber after he attempts to rip the Blakes off. Maggie torches the local supermarket after being talked about behind her back. Belle falls in love with a substitute teacher, asking for private tutoring in math to get closer to him. After getting jumped by some school bullies, Warren decides to walk in his father's footsteps, setting up a number of monetary operations at school while taking out the school trash.
And yet, despite not exactly keeping a low profile, somehow the Blakes manage not to blow their cover...until Warren quotes Don Luchese in the school paper. One small slip-up ends in a giant catastrophe when Don Luchese makes his discovery while unwrapping some contraband in prison. With no way of realizing their mistake, will the Blake family be able to evade destruction at the hands of the Lucheses?
I'm not a huge De Niro fan. I find him to be rather obnoxious as an individual. But there's no denying that Robert De Niro has great comedic timing. And he is hilarious in his role as former mobster turned writer Giovanni Manzoni. I loved the way the filmmakers gave us a peek into Giovanni's mind, allowing us to see the violent acts he really wants to commit on people he is slighted by and what he actually does instead so as not to attract the wrong sort of attention. I love his description of himself as a good man and the ten reasons why he believes he is good - you just have to see it to understand why it's so funny.
Michelle Pfeiffer reaches back into her Married to the Mob past to pull out that mobster wife accent again. She, too, is rather hysterical and I love the nonchalant way she exacts revenge. I've seen Dianna Agron do comedy - remember Glee? But I never saw her like this: attacking a high school pervert with a tennis racket to teach him a lesson about being nice to women - awesome! John D'Leo is equally funny trying to follow in daddy's footsteps. Tommy Lee Jones is okay in this, but the funniest moments in The Family belong to...well, the actual family. I loved the interaction with the locals, the bits of Giovanni's memoirs, the revenge exacted for bad behavior. All of this made for some very funny moments in the film. The ending left a little something to be desired - fighting off the Lucheses seemed a bit too easy - but I still got what I came for: some great laughs and quite a few chuckles. The Family is an enjoyable comedy if you're not looking for a more imaginative plot.