Release Date: 22nd November 2013
Running Time: 111 mins
Director: Luc Besson
Starring: Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Tommy Lee Jones, Dianna Argon, John D’Leo
Hold onto your butts; out this week is the hotly anticipated box office juggernaut The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, which will most likely be dominating cinemas for the next few weeks while everything else scrabbles on their hands and knees for pennies in the ashes. The Family is unfortunately one of those poor souls, however it’s the type of film that’ll probably tick along just fine at a time like this, providing an alternative for those who maybe hate Jennifer Lawrence (is it possible?). There won’t, however, be many satisfied customers. Coming out of our screening, somebody remarked that “there was absolutely nothing good about that at all”, which is a good indicator of what you’ll be going into. The whole thing is one big eye-roll, a montage of lazy stereotypes and crap jokes, all haphazardly tied up in an utterly stupid narrative, where logic has been thrown out the window and then uzi’d a few times just to make sure it can’t come back.
First, there’s the incredibly busy plot. Giovanni Manzoni (De Niro) and family are moving to their new digs in Normandy after they are put in witness protection, only to consistently blow their cover because they just can’t stop being a bunch of murderous buffoons, or something. Michelle Pfeiffer blows up a supermarket within the first 20 minutes (with no consequences) and loves to moan about how awful French food is; continually appalled at the use of cream in “posta”, while De Niro has anger management issues because of course he does. Drawing all this attention eventually exposes their location, and so the mobster they helped to put in jail is now on their case. Tommy Lee Jones hangs around for a bit, their kids have their own completely needless subplots and, inevitably, an ex-Sopranos cast member turns up.
It’s a complete mess. Nothing makes sense, so when the punchlines arrive we’re not entirely sure why we’re supposed to be laughing. Comedy doesn’t always need logic, but when the character’s actions have no justification and many of the major turning points are utterly ludicrous, the laughs subside and loud sighing is firmly rooted in its place. Tonal inconsistencies don’t help either: is this a comedy? Action? Serious drama? Some of it is also annoyingly misjudged: at one point amidst the “japes”, Michelle Pfeiffer is threatened with rape, only for it to be almost instantly followed by a crude joke. Nice one, Besson.
On the subject of Luc Besson, it seems he is continuing his recurrent theme of being racist towards his own country, if that’s possible. After almost 2 hours of running time, you’ll feel like you’ve been bashed around the head with an accordion and had a string of garlic forced down your throat. As seen in Taken which he co-wrote, Paris is full of sex slavers and folk riding bicycles with baguettes sticking out the basket (the two are not necessarily mutually exclusive). So of course everyone in Normandy speaks perfect English, and they’re all sex pests and food snobs: it would be deemed incredibly offensive if it weren’t for a Frenchman at the helm.
To conclude this nonsense, there is a moment in The Family where Robert De Niro actually watches Goodfellas and then talks about it incessantly, and everyone involved thinks that’s really clever because -wait for it- did you know he was actually, like, in that?! The only thing more depressing than this joke is that Martin Scorsese apparently executive produced this nonsense. I really wish that was another bad joke, but it’s not. Go and see Catching Fire instead; it at least has Jennifer Lawrence in it, which is almost never a bad thing.