Friends are fleeting, but family is forever. No matter what trouble you’re in, your family will always be there for you. DISCLAIMER: This does not apply to your mob family, because they will kill you if you cross them. And so starts this very (stereo)typical film about a mobster-turned-informant and his dysfunctional family as they try to lay low in a place where they stick out like a cannoli in a basket of breadsticks.
Giovanni Manzoni (Robert De Niro) is on the road again with his family. They are on their way to Normandy, France to start a new life for themselves… for about the third or fourth time since they were put into the witness protection program after Gio snitched on the mob in order to save himself. After trying to capture mobster Gio for years, FBI agent Robert Stansfield (Tommy Lee Jones) is now incharge of making sure the family is protected. Like Gio’s family, old habits are hard to kill so in some way or another, they always blow their cover.
In Normandy, Gio/Fred had every intention of laying low and taking his assumed identity of an American historical author very serious. He quickly learns (as we assumed he did in the previous locations) that he can’t suppress his nature for long. Just like his novel changed into an Italian-American autobiographical/historical account, his good intentions become lethal and explosive. The rest of the family isn’t completely blameless either. The mother, Maggie (Michelle Pfeiffer), plays the familiar role of housewife, but also moonlights as a supermarket arsonist. Belle (Dianna Agron) is daddy’s little girl, all the way down to her proclivity for physical violence. She also has a very Shakespearean view on life and love. Particularly the story of Romeo & Juliet. Warren (John D’Leo) is a young entrepreneur whose specialty includes racketeering. He is able to get everything he wants, using force when necessary.
It is already hard trying to fit into the ethnocentric city of Normandy, but things are made worse when the mob boss looking for Gio finally finds him, through an absurd and unlikely chain of events. Each family member is facing their own crisis and the family is crumbling as their impending doom lurks around corner with an arsenal of weapons at their disposal. The family must come together if they have any hope of surviving the coming assault.
Imagine every Italian stereotype you can fathom and mix it into a bowl with some pasta and add some cheese. A lot of cheese. The product is this derivative film The Family that, if it weren’t so bad, it could almost be taken as an insult to Americans as a whole. Much of the movie is hard to stomach with every character being turned into a hulking caricature of how poorly French people view Italian-Americans (and Americans) in general. Director/Screen writer Luc Besson (Leon the Professional, Fifth Element) has proved time and again that he can do action films very well. His apparent struggle comes when he tries to incorporate humor into the mix.
I haven’t decided whether this is an action film trying to be a comedy or vice versa, since there is so few of either in the film. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and we’ll call this an action film with comedic delusions of grandeur. This film would have had a better chance on the comedic front if the satire it was based on wasn’t so derisive and over-done. Despite Besson’s expertice on (sometimes grandiose) action sequences was no where to be seen with most/all of the action taking place in the disappointing final act. It also doesn’t help that every actor plays a role that is all to familiar/effortless/tired.
This film is like a mob shoot out; they miss their mark a great deal more than they actually hit it. The action and comedy in the film tried to slay us but only ended up grazing us.
RATING: ★★★(3/10 stars)
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