Written by / 9/12/2013 / 1 Comment / , , , , ,

THE FAMILY

year: 2013 cast: Robert DeNiro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Dianna Agron, Tommy Lee Jones rating: **
At the end of Martin Scorsese's mob classic GOODFELLAS, Ray Liotta, after ratting out the mobsters who practically raised him from childhood, fears living the rest of his mundane life as a “Schnook.” In layman's terms he will no longer party like a king, which is basically where THE FAMILY begins: only in a dilapidated France manor instead of suburban Middle America.

There's a double-meaning title, relating to both The Mafia and this particular clan consisting of DeNiro’s bearded and reflective Fred Blake (a fake name) and his much more assertive wife Maggie, played by Michelle Pfeiffer, who doesn’t take crap from anyone – especially the snotty folks at a grocery store she winds up firebombing. And it’s a shame since Pfeiffer’s character has the most bloody fun, but not for long – eventually she’s part of the backdrop as the kids, a gorgeous daughter and geeky son in a new high school, pretty much take over the film.

Belle (Dianna Agron) and Warren (John D’Leo) are polar opposites. Warren gets beaten by bullies but soon manipulates other students to cut corners – think Tom Sawyer meets Ferris Bueller with connections. And Belle makes crazy like mom, only with more gusto and for a lot longer… With the exception of a young gaunt-faced teacher she winds up falling dreadfully in love with, anyone who crosses her path gets the kind of pummeling you only see in, well, really violent mob films. Only here, in a quirky dark comedy backed by goofy Italian restaurant music to remind us of such, the beatings are much too simple…

From thrashing people into bloody pulps to random acts of terrorism, The Family does whatever they feel like without any repercussions (save for a few lectures from Tommy Lee Jones's FBI man). The characters are more like caricatures – it's no wonder Robert DeNiro heads the bill. Since we all know his status as a famous actor in the mob genre, his Fred... formerly Giovanni... needs only a few hollow flashbacks to make everything clear.

As an ultra-violent satire about a family that can’t adapt to normalcy given their violent nature, the movie goes too far off the deep end without allowing us to know them better. And one pivotal scene... when DeNiro winds up critiquing a very familiar film... breaks the fourth wall so bad, hardcore cinema fans might not be laughing like a conventional audience, who can easy forgive a project more dependent on past glories… from GOODFELLAS to THE UNTOUCHABLES… than the story at hand, which, in this particular case, offers only clich├ęs.
Robert DeNiro having much better and younger times in GOODFELLAS with Ray Liotta
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