Giovanni Manzoni (Robert DeNiro) was a very powerful man in New York. He lived a nice life, even if it meant doing some not so nice things to get there. After testifying against his “family,” his real family was placed in the witness protection program. Due to a few incidents, the Manzonis, now known as the Blakes, have been moved to a small town near Normandy, France.
Fred (Giovanni) isn’t supposed to leave the house, for his own safety. When one of new neighbors meets him, Fred says he is an author. After all, he is writing his memoirs. Memoirs which spell out everything he was involved in during his previous life. A book which could cause a lot of trouble for a lot of people if it were to be published.
Fred’s wife, Maggie (Michelle Pfeiffer), and his kids Belle (Dianna Agron) and Warren (John D’Leo) are having a hard time letting go of their old habits. Habits they picked up from Fred. Warren even starts his own racketeering ring at school.
Meanwhile, the family Gio testified against is searching mercilessly for him to get their revenge. To say they are brutal is an understatement. Robert Stansfield (Tommy Lee Jones), the agent assigned to watch over the “Blakes” isn’t too happy about the families activities. He has already had to move them several times. And it is hard to keep them hidden when the kids are drawing attention to themselves and Fred, posing as an author, is invited to present his thoughts on an American film.
The Family has Robert DeNiro doing what he does best; mob movies. It really is where he really fits in. I prefer this over many of his other roles where he plays a caricature of what everyone expects from him. Tommy Lee Jones plays the same role he always plays, a grumpy federal agent. It works for him, but we’ve seen it before. Dianna Agron plays the lovelorn teenager well enough. It’s a step above her character in Glee. The one who really shines is John D’Leo. Playing a mini-DeNiro, he runs the school. At no point does it feel fake or forced. I could see that kid pulling off his schemes. Well done.
It isn’t exactly a new story, but it does put a fresh spin on things. There are a few places where things could have been improved, but that doesn’t detract from the film as a whole. They didn’t go into much detail about what Giovanni had done in his life as a mob boss. You get a few glimpses of him in his old life. And continuing his habits in his new life. I think it’s enough to get the point across. And the way it’s done works well to make The Family a comedy that doesn’t take itself too seriously or, conversely, become over the top ridiculous. The ending is a little, well, it’s not bad. It definitely fits the tone of the film, even if it is a little beyond belief.
This isn’t a Godfather type gangster movie. It is much lighter than that. If you’re a fan of DeNiro, but maybe not into the more “hardcore” mob movies, The Family should fit the bill if you’re looking for something funny with a bit of an edge.