What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Family is a mix of comic hijinks, mobster violence, and, to a lesser extent, melancholy. Because it's about an ex-mob boss (now in the Witness Protection Program), there are many scenes filled with Mafia hit jobs, with varying degrees of violence, from smacks to beatdowns to fatal shootings and explosions. Expect plenty of strong language, too, particularly "f--k" (the word's supposed ability to express so much is a running theme), and a scene in which an adult beds a teenager (no sensitive body parts shown, but it's clear they're having sex). Some drinking, smoking, and product placement as well.
What's the story?
Giovanni Manzoni (Robert De Niro) narced on his mob family, a choice that sends him and his own family into the Witness Protection Program. But, of course, Giovanni's enemies aren't taking his decision in stride; they're crawling all over Europe, determined to find him and silence him forever. And the Manzonis are making it a little too easy for them: They just can't behave. His wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) will blow you up -- literally -- if you say a mean word about her family; their two kids (Dianna Agron and John D'Leo) are using seduction and subterfuge to "fit in" at school. And Giovanni himself can't resist his violent urges, even when he's trying to deploy them for good. Their FBI protector (Tommy Lee Jones) is fed up with their shenanigans, especially when Giovanni decides to start writing his memoirs just as the mob starts to close in on the Manzonis.
Is it any good?
Here's the viewing trajectory for THE FAMILY: It starts briskly and violently, and knowing that Luc Besson is at the helm, you get ready for a bracing yarn. (Plus, it's tons of fun to see Pfeiffer married to the mob again.) But all too soon, the pacing goes slack. The movie starts to digress, to linger a little too long. You get the urge to check your watch. (There's a little too much about how the kids are doing at school, for instance; it would be better to spend more time with De Niro's compelling Giovanni.)
But then there's another shift after the movie's midpoint. What seems like yet another superficial dramedy about snitching on the Mafia takes on a subtle melancholy; it turns into a meditation on change (or the inability to truly embrace it). The people we leave behind won't let us; the future doesn't seem half as much fun. And when the body count piles up in the end, you're definitely no longer in a stupor, lamenting the film's meandering ways. By then, it's all come to a focus -- and sharp one at that.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about The Family's violence. Is it all necessary to the story, or does any of it seem excessive? Would its impact be different if the movie's tone was more serious?
What does this movie contribute to the mob-movie genre? Does it stray from it? If so, how?
Are any of the characters intended to be role models?