Susan Granger’s review of “The Family” (Relativity)
French director Luc Besson has assembled a star-studded cast for this dark, mobsters-in-hiding
comedy, revolving around Giovanni Manzoni (Robert DeNiro), who has millions in the bank, but he’s ruthlessly ratted out the Brooklyn Mafia and will spend the rest of his life in the FBI’s Witness Protection Program. Problem is: he keeps blowing his cover, which frustrates his dyspeptic handler (Tommy Lee Jones).
With his highly functional, dysfunctional family, Gio has just been re-located to a small village in Normandy, France. Under the assumed name of Blake, the Manzonis are faced with yet another set of re-adjustment problems. Gio’s wife Maggie (Michelle Pfeiffer) not only can’t find peanut butter in the food mart but she’s rudely informed that local grocers don’t like to stock American products. Infuriated at the disrespect, she blows up the place. The manipulative Manzoni offspring – 17 year-old Belle (Dianna Agron, the head cheerleader from TV’s “Glee”) and her 14 year-old brother Warren (John D’Leo) – quickly size up their new schoolmates and embark on their own schemes. Instructed to stay in the house most of the time, aging Gio discovers an old, manual typewriter and decides to
write a tell-all memoir. And the Manzonis’ ‘get-acquainted’ barbecue backfires when they realize the depth of their arrogant neighbors’ condescension. Meanwhile, back home, the imprisoned Mafia dons dispatch contract killers to exact retribution.
Written by director Luc Besson (“The Fifth Element,” “The Invisibles”) with Michael Caleo, it’s adapted from Tonino Benacquista’s novel “Malavita.” While the weak, uneven script never settles on a consistent, cohesive tone, the performances elevate the material. By now, Robert DeNiro can
play sociopathic mobsters in his sleep but, to his credit, he doesn’t. Revisiting her previous turns in “Scarface” and “Married to the Mob,” Michelle Pfeiffer seems to have perfected an empathetic take on the brittle gangster parody, while Tommy Lee Jones exudes an exasperated world-weariness.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Family” is a facetious, amusingly amoral 6, laden
with far-from comedic carnage.