If you know Robert De Niro is playing a mobster, then why would you not see the movie? Add on Dianna Agron, who seemingly is the only one to really break away from Glee successfully, and then Michelle Pfeiffer, Tommy Lee Jones and a mob story which doesn’t take itself too seriously, and really what is there to question, eh? Well, that is what I thought walking into this movie.
Robert De Niro plays the lead, Giovanni, and his acting in the film leads you to think he is playing a character from his filmography in an unofficial sequel. His role is a former mobster who has snitched and went into witness protection but kept his old ways when it comes to socializing with people. Alongside him is his wife Maggie Blake (played by Michelle Pfeiffer) who doesn’t rise above your usual mob wife, outside of her bombing a supermarket once or twice, and then their children Belle (played by Dianna Agron) and Warren Blake (played by John D’Leo). Belle is a like a Disney princess, with the ability to switch into mob mentality. As for Warren, he pretty much is his father in the making, but with his upbringing not being as harsh, he is a bit softer than his dad was at his age. As for Tommy Lee Jones’ character, it’s pretty much as dry as most of the roles he is known for.
Story wise, the now christened “Blake” family has just left a part of southern France for Normandy, a quiet village. Well, that is until the Blakes arrive and begin to start up what they usually do. The dad makes up a job position and ends up getting involved in local politics and issues, the mom deals with living in a foreign country which doesn’t have much love for Americans, the son uses his keen observation skills, and cunning, to quickly find means of manipulating aspects of his school environment, and poor Belle tries to deal with these genes which make her capable of being as violent as her father, while essentially being just a girl looking for love, stability and an escape from the madness of her family. Altogether, this seems like a rather normal family, well until the mob is seen throughout trying to find them and kill every last one.
Now, one of the main appeals of this film is the fact it isn’t trying to be over the top a la Rush Hour. Instead, it does really try to make sure the foundation of family is established before it starts throwing violent or intense action scenes and having more naturalistic comedy. And by naturalistic, I mean that it isn’t the type of comedy that is set up to be a joke, it is more so the comedy which we are used to from De Niro, or dialog which feels very natural for the other characters to say. Also, something I liked, this is one of the few productions when the kids don’t feel like a waste of screen time. For while Agron and D’Leo certainly don’t steal the movie from the more veteran actors, they at least are given enough of a story of their own to hold their ground, and they work well enough with De Niro and Pfeiffer to make us see a legit family chemistry. Lastly, I must note how much I admired them for developing most of the characters who represent the family. For while I felt Pfeiffer’s character was a bit thin, everyone else seemed to have some type of past which lead to an understandable present, and we could foresee what future they could have and what they think they will have.
But, as all films, there were some issues. To begin, let’s talk about Pfeiffer’s character Maggie. The main issue with Maggie is that we have hardly learn a thing about her besides that she is Giovanni’s wife and the mother of Belle and Warren. I’ll even throw in there she knows how to cook. Outside of that, we don’t learn a thing. We don’t learn how she learned to make a bomb, she expresses her displeasure for bouncing around in witness protection, but Agron’s character more exhibits the displeasure of this than her, and outside of doing her wifely duties, she doesn’t do much more than hang around the FBI guys gossiping. Add onto that issue, while De Niro and her have some chemistry, there is only just enough chemistry for us to believe they are a married couple. Then, going back to the topic of Agron’s character, her character feels out of place sometimes. She, as mentioned, presents the angle which Pfeiffer’s character only hints at The need for normalcy. With this, as much as she pursues normalcy by trying to find love, she also brings the dramatics by almost killing herself, and the mobster violence by beating the hell out of someone with a racket and handling a gun quite well. This makes it so you feel like they tried to give Agron a real meaty role showing the duality of the trauma which comes from being in the family to how capable she is in following in her dad’s footsteps but, in the end, it makes her character not properly mesh well with the film and makes you think there was some indecision on how her character’s development and story should have been handled.
Overall: Worth Seeing
With easy going comedy and the type of mobster violence that is done just right, this film mostly feels like a breeze. Mind you, during the nearly two-hour movie, there are some scenes with De Niro which seem unnecessary, but overall he brings a nice comical nature to the story and, outside of Pfeiffer, each family members presents something to the table as a reason to watch the film. So, I would definitely say it is an opening weekend type movie, or worth renting on DVD.