Monday, September 16, 2013

The Family

If there were another review up on eFilmCritic, I would have been strongly tempted to write this review up as if The Family were an actual sequel to a more entertaining movie, with maybe a "hold on - you say that this isn't Part II?" attached at the end. It would have been funny to see how much mail I got from people who didn't read the whole thing correcting me, or asking where they could see Part I because they couldn't find it on IMDB or any of the streaming services.

Or maybe not; the idea came to me in the writing, and if this had a full review there, I would have just shoved it aside to give priority to Fantasia/Films at the Gate/Hitchcock stuff. If I didn't have all that vying for my attention, though, I certainly would have popped in the Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec Blu-ray that just came out in the US a few weeks ago and paired those two. I'm still going to do that soon, though, just because the very bandes-dessinées-evoking feel I got from the last reel of this makes me wonder how Besson did with an actual BD - especially since he's developing Valerian, which I kind of like a lot more than Adele. I also kind of want to see how he handled the tone of Adele; it's a surprisingly nasty book for something that looks playful and steampunky, and there may be something to be said about American and French tastes here.

But, in the meantime, The Family. It's not very good, but I still think I'd see a spinoff with the kids or a short-season TV series where each season was ten episodes of the Marzonis not fitting into another type of neighborhood.

The Family

* * (out of four)
Seen 15 September 2013 in AMC Boston Common #16 (first-run, DCP)

The Family plays like the ill-conceived sequel to a Robert De Niro/Tommy Lee Jones crime comedy that, since the whole thing is hypothetical anyway, we'll assume would have been entertaining. It's got all the hallmarks - a story that seems to pick up after the end of another, Jones looking like he doesn't want to be there and negotiated only having to be on set a few days, and DeNiro coasting on what audiences remember.

As the result of the events of that hypothetical first movie, former mobster Giovanni Manzoni (De Niro) and his family - wife Maggie (Michelle Pfeiffer), daughter Belle (Dianna Agron), and son Warren (John D'Leo) - are in the Witness Protection program, although they're apparently too hot to be placed anywhere in America, and have wound up in France. Things got too hot in their last spot, so now they're in a small Normandy town as "Fred Blake" and family. Of course, a Brooklyn gangster and his family are going to stand out, so while they have trouble blending in, Gio's former associates are busy hunting him down.

In order to get to the point of a showdown, though, The Family has to kill some time, and somewhere between Tonino Benacquista and Luc Besson & Michael Caleo (who adapted Benacquista's novel Malavita), they forgot to give the characters anything interesting to do. There's some potential fun to be had from letting Warren and Belle - who are very much their parents' children - loose on a small-town school (which could be anywhere, as language barriers never rear their heads in this movie), but their stories never quite take off. Maggie hangs out with the FBI guys assigned to watch them because she feels unwelcome everywhere else, and Gio splits his time between half-heartedly writing his memoirs and trying to figure out why his water's brown using threats and violence because he's a gangster. Despite this not being a sequel, there's no time spent on how Gio came to turn rat, so instead most of the movie has sitcom plots. There's probably a good television comedy to be made from this situation, but as a movie, the individual bits aren't funny enough and don't build to anything in particular.

Full review at EFC.

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