“The Family” just an ordinary film with a great cast

The Family” has all the elements necessary to be a great comedy, action movie or even a great suspense picture, but sadly, it is none of these. With a cast featuring Robert DeNiro, Michelle Pfeiffer and Tommy Lee Jones, it would seem almost impossible to create such a formless film.

A former mafia family is in hiding because the father, Fred Blake, aka Giovanni Manzoni (DeNiro), snitched on his Mafioso family. The plot line is very “been there, done that,” but has potential to stand out from other films: the family is aware of what dad does for a living, knows why they are on the run and is okay with it.

The film never lives up to this potential because the audience never learns who Giovanni ratted out or why. Without knowing these backstory elements, there is no reason to care about the Manzoni family. For all the audience knows, Giovanni might deserve any pain the mob chooses to inflict upon him.thefamily_poster

Nonexistent backstory aside, another major flaw is the movie’s lack of a defined genre. There are funny moments, but “The Family” is not a comedy. There are a couple of good fights, but it isn’t an action flick, either. There are even moments that have you sitting on the edge of your seat, but it really isn’t a suspense movie.

What’s worse is that even though all three of these styles are present, they are rarely interwoven, which would have let the audience know that each style is included intentionally. The genres, on their own, are just confusing.

The uninspired use of sepia tones during the climax is another downfall. The bad guys are shot in full color in every scene prior. When they show up to kill the Manzonis, the filmmakers used a visual effect to show the audience that the hit squad was there to kill them, as if it wouldn’t have been clear without it.

It was not all bad, though. The performances were what you would expect them to be from the caliber of the talent that was assembled. DeNiro, Pfeiffer and Jones notwithstanding, the two Manzoni kids, Belle (Dianna Agron, “Glee”) and Warren (John D’Leo), really kept pace with their more seasoned co-stars.

In fact, it was the scenes featuring these two that were the most realistic and enjoyable. The relationship between the siblings, particularly in their situation, was very genuine. They had each other’s backs instead of allowing sibling rivalry and teenage angst to govern their behavior toward each other.

All in all, “The Family” is an ordinary film that happens to have an extraordinary cast.