Mafia comedy finds strength in cast standouts

Photo Courtesy of Relativity Media

The family of an ex-mafia boss is on the run from those who want them dead. Explosions, mutilations and a family that just cannot seem to fit into society seems like the perfect set-up for a fast-paced, action-packed comedy. Instead, The Family starts with a bang and quickly falls into a slow-paced, predictable film. Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer star as the parents of the Manzoni family, who have to move every ninety days as per the witness protection program since De Niro ratted out half of the mafia. Along with their kids, played by Dianna Agron and John D’Leo, and the FBI Agent, played by veteran actor Tommy Lee Jones, the cast is rounded out with star names.

De Niro may be pushing his luck in this field. He was brilliant in Goodfellas, a classic mafia film premiering in 1990, as well as many other action films, but it may be time for him to take it slower and stick to movies like 2012’s Silver Linings Playbook. As for Jones, his supporting actor role is typical of past performances within the same genre but does not have the same impact as in movies like Men in Black.

On the other hand, Agron branches far away from her previous role as Glee’s leading cheerleader, and she shines in this sometimes-dark mafia film. Her character is the most developed, and she executes the role with precision. In one of the few well-executed, action-comedy scenes, Agron’s feminist declaration against a group of immature teenage boys will get women cheering and guys rethinking the role of the “fairer sex.”

Agron is not the only novice that steals the show. This film marks D’Leo’s first major starring role, and he gives a memorable performance compared to the seasoned stars. The actor creates a character akin to a little mafia boss, cunningly running his new school within a few days. Without these two actors, the movie would be a complete bust, but they manage to make The Family somewhat entertaining.

Despite the questionable acting, all the blame does not fall entirely on the performers. The production and execution of the basic plot is rough. The entire movie is contrived, in particular the transition scenes, which the screenwriters, Luc Besson and Michael Caleo, fail to write in a way that comes off as smooth.

Besson is the film’s director as well, and he obviously could not decide what he wanted out of this movie. Was it supposed to be action? Comedy? Suspense? It does not fully achieve any of these, instead only brushing the surface of them all.

The Family had the opportunity to be a blockbuster hit with a new take on the mafia story, but is a disappointment instead. Though at times entertaining, it is ultimately not worth the ticket price.