The Family Review
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Robert De Niro has spent much of his career playing mobsters and various other assorted tough guys. After nearly 50 years in Hollywood, the role comes naturally. Lately, it seems his tough guy roles become even more entertaining when he’s able to add a little comic wink to his performance—as in director Luc Besson’s latest, The Family.

The Family stars De Niro as Giovanni Manzoni, a.k.a. Fred Blake, a notorious mobster who’s moved with his family to a small village in Normandy, France, under the Witness Protection Program. As his son and daughter (John D’Leo and Dianna Agron) try to fit into yet another school—and his wife, Maggie (Michelle Pfeiffer), prays for strength at a nearby parish—Giovanni spends his time writing his memoirs and trying to fix the plumbing. But, despite the fact that they’re closely guarded by a team of FBI agents, it’s just a matter of time before their past catches up to them.

  
 
Just about every movie comes with its share of nagging flaws and irritating plot holes that viewers need to be able to accept or overlook in order to enjoy the overall experience. With The Family, that number is perhaps a bit higher than average. After all, before you even settle into the story, you have to accept that the Witness Protection Program has placed this family not in small-town Idaho or suburban Minnesota but in a quaint village in France. And that’s just the beginning. There are plenty of contrived plot points along the way—some of which are obvious enough to pull you out of the movie for a second or two.

Fortunately, though, you’ll be able to accept the ridiculousness of it all because everyone else does. For the most part, the cast is in on the joke—and enjoying every punch line. John D’Leo is fun to watch as the clever teen who manages to get a read on his new school and its key players by the end of his first day. And while Dianna Agron doesn’t fare quite as well as the family’s teenage daughter, she fully commits to her role as the pretty high school girl who’s a whole lot deadlier than she looks.

Pfeiffer, too, seems to lose sight of the comedy from time to time, often overplaying the drama of her role as mob wife. But, through it all, De Niro plays his part with his usual comic flair, practically laughing along with the audience as his character struggles to live some semblance of a normal life—one that sometimes includes intimidation, assault, and murder, if absolutely necessary. It’s De Niro and his comic antics (with a little bit of help from Tommy Lee Jones as the Blakes’ crusty FBI handler) that will make you fuhgeddabout (or at least willingly overlook) the flaws and inconsistencies.

The Family is filled with silly mob stereotypes and outlandish scenarios—and it occasionally veers into dramatic moments that just aren’t necessary. But, in the end, De Niro and his band of wise-cracking wise guys make this wacky mob movie an entertaining comic adventure.


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