Director: Luc Besson
Talent: Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Tommy Lee Jones, Dianna Agron
Release Date: 22nd November 2013
In The Family, Robert De Niro plays Fred Blake a.k.a. Giovanni Manzoni, a former mafia underboss now in the witness protection program. His wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) and kids (Dianna Agron, John D’Leo) have lived many lives and held many false identities over the years, and now they find themselves in the south of France, facing the biggest culture shock of their lives.
The Family is mostly a comedy film about a brash American family adjusting to the pace and particulars of European living: imagine The Stupids on a family vacation and you’re not far off, only don’t imagine that because that might make you laugh, and The Family will not make you laugh.
The comedy in this film is played as black but it’s not funny or dark enough to warrant the designation. Most (if not all) of the jokes in the film play out as follows: a character is annoyed by someone and does something violent to the offending party. Sometimes they just imagine doing something horrible, sometimes they kill them for real: it’ll shock a laugh out of you the first time but offers little in the way of lasting appeal and, after the fourth or fifth imagined maiming, the bit really wears thin. Besson, then, is perhaps not equipped to handle jokes as a filmmaker — he seems to only know one type of sight gag.
But while he may not know comedy, he does know his way around an action scene, and these sequences do something to elevate the film in its final act, just as it begins to lose its momentum. The Family is at its best when De Niro and co. come together and shoot people for a good reason — for each other — and not cheap thrills or laughs. The last act’s spectacle makes up for the rest of the picture somewhat but it’s hard to forget, and even harder to forgive, this misguided comedy caper.
Words: Luke Maxwell