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It’s All Relative – A review of The Family

Updated on October 5, 2013
Robert DeNiro is a mob boss in witness protection and Tommy Lee Jones is the marshal assigned to protect him in the dramedy The Family
Robert DeNiro is a mob boss in witness protection and Tommy Lee Jones is the marshal assigned to protect him in the dramedy The Family

Title: The Family

Production Company: Relativity Media

Run Time: 110 minutes

Rated: R

Director: Luc Besson

Stars: Robert DeNiro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Tommy Lee Jones

2 stars for The Family

Summary: The previews may make this movie seem like a comedy, but it is really anything but. It’s not as dark as some action thrillers, but it’s still not as fun as the trailers made this movie seem to be.

I call it false advertising. This film’s trailer was hilarious and actually sold this film as more of a comedy than an action adventure.

It’s really more of a dark comedy, when all is said and done.

Robert DeNiro plays Giovanni, the head of a Mob family from New York. When he turns state’s evidence against his higher ups, he goes into witness protection along with his wife, son and daughter. They’re relocated to Normandy where their old ways don’t die easily.

Giovanni isn’t the only one in the family accustomed to handling things the Mob way. When Maggie (Michelle Pfeiffer), his wife, feels slighted at the local grocery store, she deals with the perceived offense in a manner quite typical of members of her extended familia.

Even the kids aren’t exactly prone to prim and proper behavior. Son Warren steals his fair share of scenes running scams at the local school that would make Ferris Bueller proud. Of course Bueller’s hijinx don’t end quite so violently.

And daughter Belle? Let’s just say you don’t want to try and mess with her on a first date. Not even if you were, for instance, a young Rocky Balboa.

Yes, everything starts out nicely, but the last 20 minutes of the film are cringe worthy, given the lighter mood of the rest of the movie. Luc Besson is no stranger to violent motion picture making. He also made the movie Leon The Professional and he wrote the Liam Neeson thriller Taken.

He’s also no stranger to action comedy. He made the movie The Fifth Element with Bruce Willis. This though is arguably one of his darkest stories yet.

Robert DeNiro has played mob characters both seriously and humorously. Who can forget his turn as young Vito Corleone in Godfather Part II? Or his shady and creepy characters in Goodfellas and Casino? Of course he lampoons himself in the Analyze This/That series with Billy Crystal as his shrink.

Here, he comes full circle, playing his usual tough Godfather type with a touch of his Analyze This comedic persona as he joins a film society gathering in Normandy where they end up reviewing the aforementioned Goodfellas with decidedly mixed results.

Pfeiffer is her usual reliable self as the dutiful mob wife who wishes she had her old NYC existence back. Vaguely reminiscent of her turn in Married to the Mob 25 years ago, here she is really looking her age. But then again, she still has her acting chops and proves it in scene after scene here.

Tommy Lee Jones is almost underutilized as the Marshal assigned to keep the family safe from the hit crews that are after Giovanni’s head. Accustomed to standing out, Giovanni makes Jones’ job all the more difficult by refusing to lay low. Passing himself off as a writer is not the way to avoid notice.

John D’Leo is a fine young actor and manages to establish himself well here as the young mobster wannabe son Warren. Dianna Agron, whose face should be familiar to fans of Glee, is obviously better suited for lighter fare. As Belle, though, she’s a fish out of water.

The Family may indeed be interrelated, but the faux family in We’re the Millers seemed much tighter knit than this group of misfits. And one would wish that they could have toned down the swearing a bit. There was more foul language here than I’ve heard on a duck farm.

Overall, this exercise in action adventure comedic futility may be entertaining for some, but I prefer my action comedies to actually prompt genuine laughter rather than teeth clenching snickers. I give The Family 2-1/2 out of 5 stars.

What's your favorite Robert DeNiro mob related performance?

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    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Furrealz? That's mauloversly good to know.


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