by Justin Jasso (@jjasso007)
Each and every one of us has a family. Some families are more perfect like the Partridge Family while others are a little more dysfunctional like the Addam’s Family. Some don’t necessarily follow the law like the Corleone family and some are about as real as the family in We Are the Millers. There are also different definitions of what one considers a family. Some look at blood line only, while others take into consideration close friends as being part of their “family”. In the new film by Luc Besson (The Fifth Element) titled The Family, he looks at what it means to be part of a family and how, in the end, despite hardships, families stick together.
Giovanni Manzoni, now known as Fred Blake (Robert DeNiro) is the patriarch of his family. He also happens to be a former mob boss who turned rat and sold out his mafia family to the United States government. Due to this little decision (how often do mob bosses turn rat?), he and his family have been put in to the witness protection program and had to change their names. Meet the “Blake” family: wife Maggie Blake (Michelle Pfeiffer), son Warren Blake (John D’Leo), and daughter Belle Blake (Dianna Agron). Unfortunately for the Blake family, they tend to get in trouble wherever the FBI puts them, much to Robert Stansfield’s (Tommy Lee Jones), their handler, dismay.
This time they have arrived in Normandy from the Riviera, and have to start a new life. But old habits are hard to kick sometimes. Fred has a tendency to resort to violence when people push him too far, as can be said of Maggie and Belle. Warren, on the other hand, is a business/conman and is soon ruling his new school and making a cool profit. But when a family trying to be inconspicuous allows little things to bring out their true colors, people are going to notice. Will the Blake family be able to maintain a low key status and stay off the mafia’s hit list long enough to be able to testify in court?
The Family plays like a version of Goodfellas (it’s original title was actually called Badfellas) but with a comedic element to it. While the film is dark in its own right, it puts this mafia family into situations which allow for them to “be themselves” but with the end effect of laughter from the audience. And while this isn’t a laugh out loud comedy, it does have plenty of moments that will make you chuckle. Robert DeNiro is great as usual, but it does feel he is going through the motions this time around. This role is definitely no stretch for him and requires much less than his former forays into the mafia genre of film. Michelle Pfeiffer is a pleasant surprise (being that we really haven’t seen her in forever!) and takes a nice turn as a mafia mob boss’ wife. The real gems are the children, who each seem to thoroughly enjoy their roles and provide some of the best moments in the film.
But all is not great in this family. The script, written by Luc Besson and Michael Caleo, has far too many plot holes and not enough explanation in some areas. There is also misuse of some characters, particularly that of Oscar winner Tommy Lee Jones, who is completely one-note the entire film. And while the film is meant to suggest that this is a family playing low-key in witness protection, the movie tends to pace at that level, meandering along with no real excitement to speak of. There is also the issue of believability. With the assumption we as audience members will let some things slide, the film goes along nicely until the climax. At that point, it just stops being believable. To say what it consists of would be to give away the ending, but needless to say, it is absolutely not believable. Not even the staging. A true disappointment for what could have been a much better film.
It’s sad when a film has such a good cast but is inhibited by a script that doesn’t live up to their standards. So much more could have been done with the plot, the pacing and the character development. Also, the appropriate use of some big name actors would have helped. But The Family is what it is: a film that is mildly entertaining but, in the end, more of a disappointment. Hit men and assassination attempts aside, I don’t think witness protection is going to save The Family in the box office this time around.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars