The Family is based on the novel Malavita by Tonino Benacquista, directed by Luc Besson (Léon: The Professional, The Fifth Element) and executively produced by Martin Scorsese. This mob comedy finds a mafia boss and his family relocated to a sleepy town in Normandy (France) under the witness protection program after snitching on the mob. Now out of place, the family has a hard time letting go of bad habits and solving their issues the “family” way, all while trying to stay undercover so their former mafia ties don’t track them down.
The movie follows Giovanni Manzoni (Robert De Niro), his wife Maggie (Michelle Pfeiffer), and their children, Belle (Dianna Agron) and Warren (John D’Leo), who are all trying to stay hidden so Gio’s old mafia cronies don’t find them. Despite the best efforts by CIA Agent Stansfield (Tommy Lee Jones) to keep them in line, the Manzoni family just can’t help being who they are.
At this point in his career, De Niro has played this type character so many times it probably feels like putting back on a really good suit. He’s great in playing the straight man to the insanity that is going on around him, he has found a nitch in being the “funny mob guy” as he has gotten older. Most audiences are comfortable with him in that type of role, and once again he does it in the same style and good acting we’d expect from the two-timed Oscar winner. His mafia boss character is a nice mix of his Godfather and Goodfellas roles put together, but with an added amount of humor.
Michelle Pfeiffer brings back her Married to the Mob accent and just nails this role. She is funny, talented, and has great chemistry with all the cast. She has the ability to fall into the matriarchal mob character with such ease that with one look you can tell everything about her character. Her “don’t mess with me” attitude and dialogue is some of the best and most humorous in the movie.
Rounding out the cast is the two children, Dianna Agron and John D’Leo, and Tommy Lee Jones as the stuffy CIA Agent. The kids both have their own personal stories in the movie: D’Leo’s character becomes a mobster in his school, which at times is funny, and Agron’s character, who has the weakest storyline in the movie, has a massive crush on one of her teachers that leads to a cliché “love sick girl” story that isn’t very interesting at all. They’re not terrible C plots, but they become very tired and stereotypical very fast.
Tommy Lee Jones’ character, who is hardly in the movie, only comes in when the filmmakers need a little more exposition or when a funny beat is needed with De Niro. Jones does what you’d expect, and he does it well. Can’t say he didn’t look asleep during most of his scenes, or maybe that’s just how Jones acts now. Either way, he’s good in the movie and does bring his style and charm to the role, but it could have been anyone in the role and it would have been done just as good.
Luc Besson is known for his action and strong female characters, and here it’s no exception. Both Pfeiffer and Agron are given many opportunities to kick ass and show off their action ability, more so than the guys in the movie. It could be argued that the lead in the movie is really the wife, and this is her story we’re following. But needless to say, Besson yet again brings women into the forefront of the action and gives them a chance to shine.
After seeing that Scorsese was the executive producer, it was like having a final puzzle piece fall into place. After his string of successful mafia type films, of course he would want to help make a movie that turns his films on their heads and pokes a little fun at them. This shows how much love people have for these crime family movies, The Family is not an insult towards the genre, but a love letter.
The movie is funny and has a lot of great acting moments with actors you enjoy seeing. It does have a few slow parts that never really go anywhere, and sometimes the film falls under its own weight of being a cliché of other mafia films. Not a bad thing, but at times you do feel like you’ve seen this movie before. At the end of the day, this can be enjoyed and should be. We’re at the beginning of Fall right before the Winter onslaught of Oscar contenders and holiday films, why not go enjoy a simple mob comedy that you can laugh at.