Friday, September 13, 2013

The Family Movie Review

Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert De Niro (r) star in The Family

Some Girl Took My Pink Pencil Case!

A family that prays together, stays together; but what about a family that kills together... or at the very least maims? Luc Besson tackles this and other burning questions in The Family, a movie that darts back and forth between funny & violent, predictable & surprising... in utterly entertaining fashion. There's a lot going on, sure; but it's hard not to enjoy yourself most of the time.

Rotten Tomatoes Plot: In the off-beat action comedy "The Family," 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 Agent Stansfield (Tommy Lee Jones) to keep them in line, Fred Manzoni (Robert De Niro), his wife Maggie (Michelle Pfeiffer) and their children Belle (Dianna Agron) and Warren (John D'Leo) 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. Chaos ensues as old scores are settled in the unlikeliest of settings in this darkly funny film by Luc Besson (Taken, Transporter.)

What’s Best: Turns out, Pfeiffer is still Married to the Mob (in a manner of speaking.) She's terrific opposite De Niro... oozing cool, as she did so well in Tequila Sunrise and Wolf. From slurping soda at a French McDonald's to roasting peppers, and discussing the merits of olive oil over butter, the 3x Oscar nominee steals every scene she's in (with almost little to no effort.) Bravo.

De Niro deserves credit as well, for aging gracefully... minus the usual Hollywood pretenses. Even at age 70, Bobby D proves he's still one bad mother f'er! Besson's The Family is full of great, little moments: De Niro's look of pride & satisfaction after typing a single worded title page (Giovanni,) Jones' displeasure after watching Fred blow away his cover after a post-movie debate, and the groovy sounds of M's Pop Muzik when the Manzonis host a town barbecue filled with "color, noise and excess." It's hard not to smile at The Family's perceived normalcy.

What’s Not: No stereotype is left unturned as Besson brings out every mafia cliché in the book (peppers & garlic, bad guys dressed in black, even Goodfellas) with no apologies. The hit men are especially ludicrous... not to mention unrepentant and violent. Also, color me disappointed at the unlikely chain of events that puts the Manzoni family directly in harm's way towards the end of the film.

Best Line: Before shocking the parish priest during an unseen confession, Maggie takes time to make a special request, 'Dear Jesus, I know my family tries your patience sometimes...' On a more serious note, Agent Stansfield makes it clear to Fred just how important his testimony/snitching was, 'You were the best advertisement we ever had.'

Overall: There's no shortage of beat downs throughout The Family. Baseball bats, tennis racquets and good old-fashioned fists get bent and broken, thanks to everyone from Mom & Dad to brother & sis. Even the family dog gets in on the action, taking the fall for an unpleasant smell that prompts an apology from Master Fred, 'I knew it wasn't you; but I couldn't say 'nothin.'

De Niro's character appears "flattered" at all the attention, even though it's meant to end in his family's untimely demise. Besson manages to squeeze in plenty of action, profanity and family unity along the way to make all the hiding and inappropriate responses worthwhile. Black comedy and Diana Agron? How could any man refuse?
Grade: B