The Family: Movie Review
3 out of 5 stars
Published: Monday, September 16, 2013
Updated: Monday, September 16, 2013 20:09
Perhaps best known for directing “Léon: The Professional” and writing the “Taken” and “Transporter” movies, Luc Besson is certainly not new to the crime genre. With “The Family,” however, the French director demonstrates comedy is not among his greatest strengths. While the film may be excellent in some aspects, the unfortunate genre-bending is ultimately enough to truly hurt the quality of the movie.
“The Family” is set mainly in the Normandy region of France, where old Brooklyn mobster Giovanni Manzoni (Robert De Niro) and his family are living under the federal witness protection program under assumed names. His wife Maggie (Michelle Pfeiffer) seems to be as sick of the constant hiding as the couple’s son Warren (John D’Leo) and daughter Belle (Dianna Agron) are. The irritation is shared by FBI agent Robert Stansfield (Tommy Lee Jones) who reluctantly watches over Giovanni, although the ex-mobster seems to have no desire to live a quiet and peaceful life, even with a $20 million dollar price on his head set by the crime family he ratted out.
The comedy constantly shifts between absurdist (wife blowing up a grocery store because the clerk was rude) to black (Giovanni breaking the legs of a plumber because he was trying to rip off the family) to plain cartoonish (daughter nearly beating a guy to death because he made advances toward her). The plot progresses through several subplots that have little to no meaning to the rest of the story, many of which were never finished and leave a significant number of loose ends. The character development was likewise nearly nonexistent, probably due to such a large portion of the screen time being filled with repetitive, cheap attempts at laughs. Did I mention several people being beaten senseless for minor trespasses?
But the film is not all bad. Actually, in a nutshell, “The Family” is an excellent film with a lot of junk scattered around throughout. It is a perfect example of a movie that would have been much, much better if 45 minutes were cut—it truly is noticeable when you leave a movie theater and bang your head trying to figure out, “What was the point of that one scene where...?” There were a lot of those scenes that served absolutely no purpose. The oversaturation of poor humor is a shame because “The Family” certainly had several truly hilarious moments.
The cast added to the strength of the film. Acting was exceptional across the board, which was perhaps expected from the assortment of big names led by De Niro. Direction and cinematography is also worth mentioning as an obvious favor, but these two elements that Besson usually shines with are unfortunately far less noticeable in a comedy. Ultimately, “The Family” might be worth seeing for a handful of laughs, and it certainly is not boring. But a weak story and too much recycled content ultimately proves that the film is only slightly better than average.