The Family of the title are a mob family, who are currently in the witness protection program because dad (Robert De Niro) has helped the FBI nab some of his former associates. They have been relocated to a small village somewhere in France, and are told by FBI handler Tommy Lee Jones to keep a low-profile. Easier said than done when De Niro can’t keep a cover story straight, and each of the family members have trouble curbing the violence they turn to for problem solving. Thus, it isn’t long before a powerful mobster De Niro ratted on finds out where he is, and sends some goons for a little bloody revenge. Meanwhile, wife Maggie (Michelle Pfeiffer) doesn’t handle things well when the local supermarket doesn’t stock peanut butter, daughter Dianna Agron falls for an older man (her maths tutor, no less), and son John D’Leo is a real chip off the old block himself.
Although it ultimately lacks a certain something, this 2013 film from director Luc Besson (“The Professional”, “The Fifth Element”) and co-writer Michael Caleo (working on his biggest film assignment to date) is far from the worst film Robert De Niro has appeared in, especially in the last decade (“Little Fockers”, anyone? “Killing Season”? “Freelancers”?). Its main problem is that it contains moments of cleverness or amusement, without providing very many actual hearty laughs. Black comedies can often be like that, sure, but this isn’t a grand example of the subgenre. It’s just OK, and those moments of cleverness or amusement are spread pretty thin throughout.
De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Tommy Lee Jones are all perfectly cast, and John D'Leo is alright as the son, but “Glee” actress Dianna Agron is miscast as the daughter. She doesn’t look right for the part (Unless she’s the Marilyn Munster of the family, which she isn’t, as she’s just as violent), and her character behaves incredibly inconsistently. Nothing about her works, and she wears a single facial expression throughout the film: Boredom, and no, it’s not in-character. Also, her supposed violent tendencies don’t convince as played by a Gleek. And that’s a shame, because the funniest thing about the whole film is this family’s barely concealed affinity for violence. It might not produce gut-busters for the most part, but it certainly provides most of the interest. I liked De Niro’s ten points that show he’s a supposedly decent guy, numero uno especially. I mean, it almost makes sense. De Niro dealing with everyday problems through violence is amusing too. At a rate like that, the town would be cleaned out in a couple of weeks. It’s also amusing to see him try and fail to stop putting his foot in it with neighbours. Quick thinking isn’t this guy’s strong suit. The best joke is an inevitable, but very funny in-joke involving a last minute change to a movie schedule, to a certain gangster film. Yes, that one. The post-film discussion is funny too. It’s the one scene in the film where the laughs are pretty big. Other than that, every scene with Tommy Lee Jones (which is too few in my opinion) is a highlight. He and De Niro work so well together that one wishes the film was about their relationship.
The rest is really hit and miss, never as good as it should be, especially with Martin Scorsese as EP. And why does every French person in this speak English? I guarantee you that they’d insist you speak French over there and would mock you for your poor French-speaking skills to boot (The film does play up the- hopefully misconceived- notion that French people are arrogant, though).
I’m probably making this film sound better than it is, and it’s only a near miss, but like I said, the film really ought to have been better and more consistent with the laughs when you consider the people involved and the promising concept. You end up feeling a tad underwhelmed and wondering why.