Friday, September 13, 2013

The Family - 2 1/2 stars

Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer are a mafia family in the witness protection program.  Tommy Lee Jones is the FBI agent who watches over them and arranges a new home and identity every time they have to move.  They have to move and assume new identities every few months, since they can't help but revert to their old habits every time they are confronted with a problem.

When the plumber starts hassling De Niro, he grabs a baseball bat and starts beating the guy.  When Pfeiffer is insulted by the local grocer, she sets a bomb in the back room and blows up the store.  The kids are no better.  Within a few days, the teenage son has figured out which students can help him earn money, and he has several of them owing him favors. 

The movie has so much potential for comedy, and it somehow manages to squander almost every one of them.  Director Luc Besson knows how to direct a good action movie, but he doesn't know how to make a comedy.  The first hour felt very unorganized, and I kept waiting for some kind of a plot to kick it.  It just felt like a random collection of scenes.

The second half of the movie got better.  There is a running subplot of De Niro trying to figure out who's responsible for his tapwater coming out brown.  The daughter is trying to have a relationship with her math teacher.  And every time Tommy Lee Jones is on screen, the movie gets fun.  No one plays grumpy better than Jones, and he is constantly annoyed by this family.  The two men hate each other but De Niro knows that he needs Jones to bail him and his family out whenever they get in over their heads.

The movie was pretty boring but it got better.  I liked seeing De Niro as a gangster again, and I couldn't help but think of his performance in Goodfellas.  Obviously the filmmakers thought about that too, because there is a point in the movie where his character watches Goodfellas.  Very on the nose but it made me laugh.

No comments: