FlixChatter Review: The Family


Oh boy, where do I begin. Honestly, I dreaded writing this review. At first glance, the premise seems like it has potential. A mafia boss and his family under the witness protection program are relocated to a sleepy town in France for snitching on the mob. Even under the surveillance of CIA Agent Stansfield and his men, things quickly go awry as The Manzonis, er The Blakes as they’re now called, have a hard time fitting in. Can’t teach old dogs new tricks they say, especially when those dogs are a Brooklyn mob family who are so set in their ways in dealing with problems.

Now, add a dream cast, well dream trio really: Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Tommy Lee Jones, naturally I expect at least a decent dark comedy. Alas, this turns out to be THE biggest dud I’ve seen on the big screen so far. I was pretty close on walking out a few times as the movie seemed to go on forever with barely a single laugh coming out of my mouth. Saying this movie is contrived is putting it mildly. Every single scene is seething with bad taste and every Mafia clichés imaginable, not to mention every French and Italian/American stereotypes. What’s worse, you can figure out the plot from miles away. Even the way the Brooklyn mafia clan find out where they live is so predictable it’s downright irritating.


It’s really quite painful to watch great actors in something this terrible. Y’know, sometimes I don’t mind ridiculous, heck, I’d even tolerate absurdity. But a comedy that’s entirely unfunny — especially with THIS cast — is excruciating. Trust me, I wish I didn’t have to be so harsh but I kept hoping for one redeeming moment, but nope, that moment never came. Ok, there is one scene towards the end but it’s so self aware at its own joke that it feels so forced and exploitative. That scene too, was entirely predictable! I could tell the whole theater wasn’t enjoying it as I didn’t hear much laughter from start to finish, maybe a chortle or two… or perhaps a snicker?

De Niro has done similar comedic role that’s poking fun of the mob in Analyze This. To be honest with you, I’m kind of tired of that shtick, it’s only fun for maybe two seconds. Now, De Niro and Pfeiffer didn’t exactly phone it in here, I give ’em that, but I’d think they’d recognize a bad script when they see it by now? I’m a big fan of Tommy Lee Jones with his deadpan delivery but here he looks bored the entire time, like he couldn’t be bothered. Hmmm, perhaps that should be a warning to moviegoers?

Tonally, it’s all over the place, Besson just can’t seem to get his footing on what kind of movie he wants to make. I think he aims for a dark comedy but his approach is more like ‘shooting in the dark and see what hits,’ resulting in a misfire no amount of talent could save. It’s astonishing to read later on that Martin Scorsese is one of the executive producer, wow!

The subplots involving the Manzoni’s kids are so uninspired, but not exactly the fault of the young actors. I think John D’Leo and Glee actress Dianna Agron were serviceable enough, D’Leo is especially believable as a sly kid who learned everything from his wiseguy dad. Agron’s role as a principled virgin who takes pleasure in beating people up is so oddly-written though. In any case, the family’s German Shepherd still made more of an impression to me than those two.

His expression just about sums up my sentiment about this movie
His expression just about sums up my sentiment about this movie

There are violent scenes and profanities abound here, which warrants the R-rating. Perhaps people who are into mob movies might dig this one more than I did, but, really fans of any of the main stars here deserve better. Sorry to De Niro fans out there, but I think this Screencrush reviewer said it best: Robert De Niro‘s name on a film project is now more a red flag of warning than a sign of quality. Same with Luc Besson I guess, so don’t expect this to be remotely as shrewd as The Professional and Transporter/Taken film. If you want an action comedy from Besson that’s actually watchable, I guess just rent or rewatch The Fifth Element. By the third act, I was hoping someone would actually take a hit at the whole Blake family and spare us from our misery. I use the word complacent in my review of The World’s End and that’s a word I could use for the major talents involved here, too.


Well, what do you think of this one? Let me know your thoughts.

82 thoughts on “FlixChatter Review: The Family

  1. Good review Ruth. Every mark it tries to hit, it just totally and completley misses. Not because it isn’t funny (which it isn’t), it’s because its tone is so odd and off-balance.

    1. Hi Dan! Yeah it’s tone deaf is what it is. Sometimes even when the tone is off it could still be funny but this one is humorless from start to finish 😦

    1. It pains me too Chris! The trailer sort of warned me it’d be bad but I still held out hope… but alas 😦 It’s not even worth a rent to be honest.

  2. I like Luc Besson but I think we all should be honest in the fact that he’s got to hang it up now. I love La Femme Nikita, Leon, and The Fifth Element but everything else after that went from just mediocre to just plain bad. He’s no longer a name to be excited by anymore.

    1. Hi Steven! Yeah he should really consider retiring if this is all he’s got in his filmmaking arsenal. I’m surprised Scorsese was willing to exec produced this one!

  3. From your tweet i knew this was going to be a harsh review. I will be sure to avoid this(in the theater anyways).

    Also i didn’t know you were so down on the Worlds End. I still have yet to watch that one

    1. Yeah, it’s too bad really, it’s not that I relish in writing such scathing reviews. I like The World’s End a heck of a lot better than this one, there are definitely some laughs in that one, just not enough.

  4. Woah! Scathing indeed, Ruth. I’m saddened to hear this as I was really looking forward to it. Such a shame that DeNiro, even with a decent cast and good director behind him, can’t seem to catch a break these days. I was hoping that his excellent performance in Silver Linings Placebook would have been him turning a corner but it doesn’t seem to be. I’ll still give it a watch for him but the feedback I’m hearing isn’t exactly positive. 😦

    1. Sorry Mark! I know how much you love De Niro but I really dislike this one, it was excruciating to watch actually. I don’t know why he continues his streak of sub-par films as you’d think the likes of him could get ANY script he wants! He was really good in SLP, and his character is actually endearing AND funny in that one. Well, perhaps you’d like this more than I did, humor is subjective after all.

              1. I certainly hope so Ruth. Like I was saying on your Ronin post, though. I don’t always automatically enjoy DeNiro’s movies. I’m hoping I can take something The Family but I do have reservations, if truth be told. 🙂

                1. Hmmm, if you didn’t like Ronin, I can’t imagine you like The Family. What didn’t you like about that one? I think De Niro’s very good there, an intelligent action guy 😀

                  1. It’s hard to say as it was a while back but I remember being quite underwhelmed by it. Like is say, though, a re-watch might change my mind. I’m always happy to give Bobby another chance.

                    1. Yes, this one demands a rewatch Mark! 😀

                      Btw, you saw the trailer for Grudge Match right? That’s the comedy that pit Jake La Motta vs. Rocky in a boxing match? I so hope that won’t stink as I’m enticed to see it just for the sheer preposterous-ness, ahah.

                    2. I don’t normally watch trailers of films I haven’t seen but I had to have a look at that one. Again, I think it might be a bit of a stinker. I hope not, of course, but it’s seems a bit ludicrous to me. It’s going to have to be helluva funny in order to work and I’m not that keen on DeNiro is comedy movies. Maybe that’s why I won’t take to The Family but Midnight Run is a film that always gives me hope that he can recreate that comedy gold.

                    3. Hi Mark, here’s the Grudge Match trailer http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=1bQSOBJCPQE I sure hope the script is good as the premise has comedic potential. I’m cautiously optimistic at this point. Oh, he’s also in Last Vegas w/ Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline and Michael Douglas. Here’s the premise: Three sixty-something friends take a break from their day-to-day lives to throw a bachelor party in Las Vegas for their last remaining single pal. Both are supposed to be out this year yet, wow!

                    4. Two very promising premises, Ruth, but I often find De Niro’s adventures into comedy a little disappointing.
                      I’m collaborating on a project just now that hopefully brings a bigger scope to DeNiro, outwith these silly projects that he seems so intent on. All will be revealed very soon. 😉

                    5. Ooo, you got me intrigued now Mark! Ok, let me know when that idea is up ok. I kind of have a feeling who you’re collaborating with 😉

                    6. My pleasure Mark! You’ve been a great support to my blog too, and I appreciate that. I’ve made it a priority to comment of those who’ve been supporting my wee blog now, and that’s only fair I think.

  5. Ted S.

    I don’t have any interest in seeing this at all after seeing the trailer. Also, I’m not a fan of Luc Besson, he’s done maybe one good movie and that was the original Le Femme Nikita. Most of his other films were just average to descent flicks. I don’t think Di Nero has done a good film since Ronin, granted I haven’t seen many of his recent work. It’s usually a bad sign when a movie opens in September, which means either it’s not that good, the studio doesn’t have much faith in it or both. Sounds like this one is both, lol.

    1. You didn’t like The Professional, Ted? I think that’s a good one, and I also enjoyed the first Transporter movie. Funny but I actually saw parts of Ronin just the other day, I know it’s got a great car chase in it but I might actually give it a watch soon. I don’t think having this one open in any month would change the fact that it’s a huge stinker!

      1. Ted S.

        No I didn’t really like The Professional and I even like it less when I saw the director’s cut version, which kind of creep me out even more with the relationship of Leon and Natalie Portman’s characters. Funny thing is I was really excited to see it and went to see it in theater, I still remember to this day that there were only like 10 people in theater. It tanked at the box office but somehow after it came out on home video, it became more popular.

        I might be wrong but i think he only wrote the Transporter movies and yeah I didn’t care for any of those movies either. Like you mentioned, Besson tends to include too many cliches in his scripts, many times I thought there were quite amateurish.

  6. davecrewe

    Oof! De Niro really needs to pick better movies. Unlike the Focker films, I can’t even imagine this was a great payday. Great (if brutal) review.

    1. Hi Dave! Yeah he certainly does. He’s actually pretty funny in Meet The Parents though he really should stay away from poking too much fun at his own mob persona.

  7. That’s three stinkers in a row for De Niro – The Big Wedding, Killing Season, and The Family. it seems he likes getting paid, hence he signs on for these clunkers.

    Know what his two next films are? Opening on Nov 1, Last Vegas – think The Hangover with 60 somethings – De Niro, Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman.

    Then comes The Grudge Match which opens on Christmas Day. De Niro and Stallone as aging boxers coaxed back into the ring for one final match – 30 years after their last one. Think The Sunshine Boys with boxers rather than comedians.

    Still that’s five releases in 2013. I guess he is still in demand. Thanks for this review Ruth. I will pass on seeing this one.

    1. Hi Mike! Wow, good thing I skipped those two you mentioned. I thought this one had potential that’s why I went to the screening. Hmmm, I might check out Last Vegas as I love the cast, but boy he really needs to pick better movies and not just everything he’s offered!

  8. Hi, Ruth:

    It saddens me that you had to tough out a disappointing film.

    What is even more sad, is that actors who had the world on a string very early on and into their careers have gotten lazy and sign onto so many questionable projects.

    A well written five minute back and forth between De Niro and Tommy Lee Jones may not have saved the film, but it may have made it a bit more pleasant.

    1. Yeah, I think lazy is the key word here Kevin, it’s too bad that a lot of great actors seem to fall into that trap 😦

      The banter between De Niro and Jones are pretty enjoyable but it still won’t save this movie.

  9. I wonder what happens when the best of the best fall into the quagmire and totally bomb in a film. Surely they read the script and knew what they were getting into? Surely they don’t need the money? Surely one of them would have said, nope, this will suck–can’t work with you guys on this one….

    1. Hi Cindy! You’d think all of the talents knew what they signed up for. Which is even more inexcusable esp. for De Niro as I’d think he’s been able to pick n choose his projects from a long time ago. I wish they’d have the integrity to say no sometimes.

  10. In Indonesia it is released under the name “Malavita”, I don’t really understand the reason. You know, with Luc Besson and the cast, at first I think I’m gonna watch it. Now that I read your review, I think I’m still gonna watch it, just to see how awful it actually is! LOL 🙂

      1. Malavita was the title of the (French) book by Benacquista. I remember reading it and liking it but might avoid the film now! I have an inkling their dog was called malavita but I can’t remember…anyway it means underworld in italian.

        1. Hi Nancy! Welcome to FC. I can’t remember what the dog name is in the film, but the canine was better than the human actors, ahah. Thanks for letting us know what the meaning of Malavita!

  11. You know, sometimes these are the reviews I appreciate the most. They either verify concerns I have or warn me away from crappy movies. Both apply here. I’m not touching this one Ruth! Appreciate you sitting through the misery so I don’t have to! 🙂

    1. Ahah, well I wish I had followed my own instinct when I first saw the trailer. But I’m usually quite optimistic y’know and w/ this cast, how bad could it be? Well apparently VERY bad indeed, it’s an abominable Keith!

  12. PrairieGirl

    Thanks goodness I saw this for free… I’m trying to think what would have been worse than seeing this movie. Oh, yes… having PAID to see it!

    1. Ahah yeah, I feel bad for the millions of folks who paid money to see it. I chatted a couple of ladies at the mall on Friday night who also couldn’t fathom why this was called a comedy!

    1. I guess no matter who’s involved as producer, if the writer and director suck, then there’s no chance it’d be decent. I actually didn’t know Scorsese was producing this until after.

  13. Wow! I just saw your score on this one, Ruth! haha. we ended up with the same score! I didn’t review this one on my site, but I did submit my review for this week’s column in my area’s newspaper. It was such a boring film (the ultimate movie sin) that was so indecisive on the type of film it wanted to be. You are right. Tonally it was all over the place! Disappointed in Luc Besson…because I enjoy Fifth Element, Leon: The Professional and Taken. but…he did do Taken 2…I guess that should’ve told me something. Good review

    1. Hi T! Glad you agree! Indeed it was super boring, I was yawning a lot during the movie as I was waiting for at least ONE good moment to arrive and it never did. Yep, disappointing from Luc Besson. I didn’t see Taken 2, I don’t think I ever will, ahah.

    1. I agree De Niro seems to have sold out long ago. As for Michelle, perhaps it’s harder for actresses at a certain age to get roles, but still I wish she or her agent could pick better materials. I mean look at Helen Mirren! She is still luminous though, even prettier than the actress who plays her young daughter!

    1. Hi Paul, hope you had a nice holiday. Yeah it saddens me too, esp. for Michelle. Hopefully she finds better materials in her next film. Do you know what else she’s got lined up for?

        1. Such a bummer! I mean she is still so luminous and of course she’s very talented. Even as I was watching The Family, I was in awe of her beauty. She’s far more bewitching than the actress playing her young daughter!

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