The Family

Directed By: Luc Besson

Starring: Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Tommy Lee Jones, Dianna Agron, John D'Leo, and Domenick Lombardozzi

Several weeks ago, screen legend Robert De Niro turned 70 years old.  With a filmography spanning five decades ranging from Mean Streets to Silver Linings Playbook, it suffices to say that the Raging Bull has had an illustrious career on the big screen and stands as one of the greatest performers of all time.  That being said, I have to tell you that he's delivered a lot of stinkers in recent years.  Think Righteous Kill.  Think Little Fockers.  Think Killer Elite.  I should be jogging your memory by now.  This weekend, you have to look no further than The Family, an action comedy penned and directed by Taken scribe Luc Besson.  Even with supporting cast members Michelle Pfeiffer and Tommy Lee Jones, De Niro's latest movie falls utterly flat.

Six years ago, former mafia boss Giovanni Manzoni (De Niro) ratted out his fellow mobsters and went into the witness protection program.  Since then, he and his family have been moving all over Europe to stay safe with the help of federal agent Robert Stansfield (Jones).  Under the alias of the Blake family, they are moving to Normandy, France, where memories of World War II are long gone and beloved American products like peanut butter are scarce.  They move into a small unnumbered house in the local neighborhood.  There, they begin their new lives as the Blakes.

Under the name Fred Blake, Giovanni pretends to be a writer and tries to figure out why the water runs brown at his new house.  His wife Maggie (Pfeiffer) checks out the sights and looks to find some semblance of normalcy.  Their son Warren (John D'Leo) attempts to take over the black market at his new school, while their daughter Belle (Dianna Agron) gives her heart to her new math tutor on whom she has a major crush.  All the while, mobsters from New York continue to relentlessly search for Giovanni.  They want blood.  After all, there is a $20 million contract out on the ex-mobster. 

The best thing about Luc Besson's The Family is its soundtrack.  Besson incorporates plenty of tunes that will have you tapping your feet, but this doesn't mask his movie's problems in any way, shape, or form.  Disappointing in every way, The Family never lives up to what it could be — a damn funny comedy with some enjoyable action.  More than some uninventive directing from Besson and the so-so performances from De Niro and his fellow cast members, what really kills this film is its script.  With the writing that plagues this film, The Family never had a chance of being any good from the start.

Ever since Taken some five years ago, Besson has been getting some great actors to work in his B movies.  The Family marks his highest profile cast to date.  However, his talented cast is confined to the ill-conceived characters in Besson's script, and their performances reflect this.  Known for collecting a paycheck or ten in recent years, it's no shock that we find acting vet Robert De Niro in the role of ex-mobster Giovanni Manzoni.  Playing on his persona as well as one of his signature films Goodfellas, De Niro mails in his performance as expected.  As his wife Maggie, Michelle Pfeiffer doesn't give us the dark, feisty woman we've come to know and love over the last several decades.  As the kids Belle and Warren, Dianna Agron and John D'Leo give halfway decent performances but never really have the opportunity to impress us.  Finally, Tommy Lee Jones portrays a grumpy federal agent.  There's nothing new or fresh about that at all.

Beyond limiting its cast, The Family's script is nothing more than predictable and forces a bizarre plot down our throats.  We all know what kind of a movie this is and that it will end in some kind of bloodbath with the Blake family triumphing over the mob.  The film is old news, and you can call everything that happens based on the trailer alone.  What makes things worse is that Besson forces the plot to conform to this predictable formula in the most ridiculous ways imaginable.  I won't spoil the movie for those of you who still plan to see it, but I will say this.  With all its insanely unbelievable developments, this script may be good enough for Besson, but it's not "godonov" for me or any other moviegoer.

At best, The Family is a mediocre B movie.  It's not funny.  It's not original.  Most importantly, it's not entertaining.  De Niro, Besson, and everyone else involved are consistently disappointing.  You'll need a few Long Island Ice Teas to get through this one.  The Family gets a 0.09% rating.