Despite being unsure of its own intentions, The Family is a consistently entertaining action-comedy thanks to an exceptional cast and Luc Besson’s confident direction.
After snitching on his mafia peers, Giovanni Manzoni (Robert De Niro) and his family are forced into an FBI witness protection program and are relocated to Normandy, France. A change of name and scenery does little to sate the family’s appetite for destruction, and we soon realise that blending in was never going to be an option.
Uprooting a brash, maniacal family and placing them in a quiet, idyllic setting could have been comedy gold. However, while fun, The Family is seldom funny. It’s an action-comedy that’s a little short on the comedy. It’s a shame because everything outside of this apparent identity crisis is perfectly fine.
The Family slips into a pleasing rhythm early on. Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer are well within their comfort zones as a wiseguy and his feisty wife, and their teenage kids, Belle and Warren (Dianna Agron and John D’Leo respectively) are surprisingly similar to their destructive parents. Watching this calamitous quartet wreak havoc on their new surroundings is where The Family is at its best.
Unfortunately this rhythm starts to falter as the story progresses. Obviously the plot has to lead somewhere, but it’s hard not to be disappointed when it steers us away from the more enjoyable parts of the film and into a more predictable direction.
The Family is an example of an undercooked story being saved by an excellent cast. De Niro and Pfeiffer are a joy to watch. Agron and D’Leo admirably hold their own alongside two hollywood heavyweights, despite their brother-sister relationship being a tad too flirtatious at times.
Solid performances combine with Luc Besson’s signature visual flair to make this a good film, which is disappointing because it could have been great were it not so light on the comedy.