Entertainment: A Familiar Taste, Yet Satisfying Result- The Family Review
The criminal movie genre will never get stale or boring. Why? Because adults have always told us that crime is wrong. From the time we learn to talk, it is made clear that we should live out our lives as humanely and morally adequate as possible, making crime flicks all the more enjoyable to watch. For all of us there will come a time when we want to forget the rules of society, grab a Tommy gun, put on a pinstripe suit, and blow away our enemies without any consequences. Watching crime is fun, and The Family knows that.
The Family delivers a wonderfully comedic look into the lives of the (ex) leader of a powerful mob and his psychopathic family. Robert De Niro is Gionvanni Manzoni, a former kingpin responsible for many brutal killings, torture, and bribery. After giving away the mafia’s secrets to the Feds, he and his family are quickly whisked away into Witness Protection. Ten years later, they move to a small farm town in Normandy, France where the audience is thrown headfirst into Manzoni’s comedic life. De Niro and company spend the majority of the movie simply getting used to civilian life, but find it increasingly difficult with the surrounding community's reluctance to welcome them.
The story quickly enters full Tarantino-mode with extremely violent tongue-in-cheek moments as the family destroys, mutilates, beats, stabs, breaks, and assaults anything and anyone who look at them “funny.” Most of the punchlines and about 80% of The Family’s humor boils down to violence. Although it does deserve a few chuckles, it begins to get tiresome and desensitizing after the fourth or fifth “beatdown.”
Although brief, the other 20%, a mixture of crude Italian banter, authentic French stupidity, and below-the-belt American jokes is genuinely clever and creative. When no one is being given an internal hemorrhage with a tennis racket, the humor is an international potluck of comedic styles and exaggerated stereotypes that should not be overlooked.
Each character, no matter how large or small a role, is a different spice adding some sort of new and irresistible flavor to the main course of the film. Manzoni’s family, composed of Michelle Pfiefer, Dianna Argo, and John D'Leo work together to create a stellar viewing experience. Whether it’s the hint of sweetness provided by an exciting, yet slightly formulaic love story, or the kick of a satisfying tennis racket to the noggin, The Family proves it’s cast is of the finest quality.
Authentic Italian family banter is sprinkled throughout the otherwise unimportant scenes and keeps the script both engaging and extremely amusing. Chemistry between all characters is a dream come true, most notably the smirk-inducing dialogue between De Niro and Tommy Lee Jones.
There is no single “secret ingredient,” each and every character, has a story to tell. In addition to De Niro, who is fabulous in his own right, each member of the family stakes out their territory and each claim a slice of the film to showcase their own unique carnage-fest.
Albeit predictable at times, the love story isn’t overly sappy or dramatic, and creates the perfect context to reveal a vulnerable side to a handful of the characters. That said, this mushiness could have been avoided entirely, however it would have been a difficult undertaking for the writers to find a situation that creates sympathy between characters and audience otherwise. And although a bit cheesy, I found it much easier to sink my teeth into than most.
The Family is a movie that takes the crime genre, flips it on its head, tosses a couple of tasteless ingredients on the top, and calls it a day. There are some great ideas throughout, but most are executed incorrectly and without much originality. The predictable violent punchlines and formulaic plot hold it back tremendously. It’s entertaining, but sports nothing new or exciting. The Family is simply another straightforward, De Niro mafia movie that is easy to swallow yet impossible to digest.