The Family – Review

family_xlgWhenever I hear that Luc Besson is directing a movie, I get excited. Even though he hasn’t directed a movie that I’ve loved for some time, I still have high hopes because the man is so talented. When I heard he was directing a movie starring Robert DeNiro, Michelle Pfeiffer and Tommy Lee Jones, I got even more excited. That made it a must see. It sounded like a recipe for a great movie. Then I saw the trailer and was underwhelmed. It was amusing, but it was hard to get excited about. That’s true of the movie itself. It’s not a bad movie. But it just never took off for me. And it’s a really weird mix of mob related comedy and then violent thriller, but neither one really works.

The mob related comedy is nothing new. We’ve seen Robert DeNiro do it brilliantly with Analyze This. But while there are some amusing moments and scenes in The Family, it never reaches for great comic heights. The actors seem game, but the material is just not there. And the pacing works in fits and starts where some sequences are tightly edited and fun while many others just lie there with no direction, going nowhere.

DeNiro’s storyline and his cover identity never really go anywhere and is certainly not very funny. There’s a reference to the last city they lived in to a situation where he beat a guy for selling him bad lobsters, which were apparently supposed to be the start of a little money making operation for him. That scenario is funnier than anything in this movie.

Pfeiffer’s storyline is also pretty boring. It starts off with the amusing grocery store scene that’s been in the trailers, but other than her interaction with their protective agents, there’s nothing particularly entertaining going on. The agents, Di Cicco and Caputo, played by Jimmy Palumbo and Domenick Lombardozzi are standouts in the movie and their relationship with Pfeiffer is a lot of fun, but they’re not given enough to do and when it really matters, they prove to be surprisingly inept.

Nobody does deadpan comedy like Tommy Lee Jones and he has his moments here, but he’s definitely not working with great material. And considering that this family is in witness protection and his agents are always hidden away in an apartment, why is he so present when he visits? When he checks on the family, he stands in the front doorway and doesn’t even come in to have a private conversation. He shows up at the family barbecue. He takes Fred to a film screening and discussion. Who is this guy? Why does he keep coming around? Wouldn’t the locals start to ask about him? None of that makes any sense to me.

The kids played by Dianna Agron and John D’Leo are the most interesting parts of the movie but both of their storylines go way off the rails. Belle can handle herself as we learn early on in a great sequence, but her romantic attachment to a local really comes out of nowhere and didn’t ring true at all. What a waste of a fun character. Warren is a very smart, crafty kid and it’s fun to see him size up his new school and figure out all the angles. But instead of some fun comic payoff, he makes a very strange decision and leaves it all behind.

Vincent Pastore of The Sopranos is completely wasted here. I kept waiting for him to reappear with something to do, but I guess it was just stunt casting to get his recognizable face in the movie. What a disappointment.

Without giving too much away, the hitmen in the movie are portrayed from the very opening scene as being cold blooded and deadly. And when they launch into full on attack mode in Act 3, they are a real threat. But when they finally go after De Niro’s family, despite their superior numbers and firepower, they too prove to be totally inept. The main characters react with terror when they learn that the hitmen are coming for them, but there’s really nothing to be terrified about, which makes the big climax pretty boring.

The Family is a wasted opportunity for all involved. It’s not a bad movie in the true sense of the word, but it is a disappointing one when you consider the talented people who made it.

Rating: ★★½☆☆

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Brian McQuery

Brian is a writer/director from Chicago who has made 9 short films and is developing his first feature. He has hosted Q&A events at the New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles for films including GoodFellas and Aliens. He works as an Assistant Director on independent films. He misses Chicago style deep dish pizza, but otherwise loves living in Los Angeles. Web site:

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