I enjoy how much Luc Besson gives to the world of cinema. He's involved in so many movies. And despite being a director, he doesn't feel the need to direct everything that he touches. His producing and writing credits are much longer than his directing credits. In fact, some of his best movies are ones that he didn't direct; and, luckily some of his worst movies are the ones that he didn't direct. I was excited to see him hop in the director's chair for 'The Family,' but am sad to announce that this should have been one of the films with his limited involvement. For 'The Family,' he was originally only serving as writer/producer, but took the role as director when icons Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer and Martin Scorsese became attached. Unfortunately, he should have remained writer/producer and left the directing to someone else. 'The Family' is a disengaging and mild gangster flick that's now left an ugly stain on his directing credits.
'The Family' stars De Niro as the head of a household that's been under witness protection for several years. Without fail, each location where they end up is short-lived due to the family's inability to leave behind their corrupt criminal ways. The movie kicks off with the family's relocation to a quaint town in Normandy, France. None of the father's revenge-driven enemies back in Brooklyn should ever be able to find them him.
Day one in their new town, each member of the family gets into some trouble. The father, Fred Blake, is told to not leave their home, but takes a stroll just because his FBI protector (Tommy Lee Jones) tells him not to. The wife, Maggie (Pfeiffer), gets stereotypical guff from a local market owner after asking for American products – like peanut butter – so she blows up the shop. The daughter, Belle (Dianna Argon), beats the living hell out of a local high school boy who tries to take advantage of her after school. And the son, Warren (John D'Leo), gets bullied and quickly fashions an elaborate plan to violently get revenge on his assailants. After just one day, we immediately understand why the family has had to be relocated. Their mischievousness isn't intentional; it's ingrained in them, part of their DNA.
I missed a local theatrical press screening of 'The Family,' but looked forward to seeing it due to Besson and the other credits. The synopsis, as portrayed in the trailers (and how I've described it above), sounds like fun – but after watching it, "fun" is not the word that I'd use to describe it. 'The Family' is dry. Very dry. The majority of the bloated 112-minute run time is polluted with several completely non-consequential subplots. Each family member has at least one of his/her own; Fred is given several. There's one thing that happens in this movie to tip off the Brooklyn mobsters that Fred and Family are in Normandy – and it has nothing to do with any of the subplots. It's a completely random and farfetched happenstance. Even then, the thing that tips them off is so slight that there's no way that anyone – no matter how fueled with rage and revenge – would connect the two dots. No way.
Considering that all of the trailers and advertisements show the family battling with the mob, we inevitably know that it's coming. Getting to that point takes forever. I wish that I could say that the wait was worth it, but it's not. Yes, we are finally given some tension and action during the film's climax, but it's short-lived and definitely not worth the wait.
All in all, 'The Family' is forgettable. Reflecting on it just one day after watching it, aside from the action-infused ending, I can't remember anything about it. The only lingering memory will be how uneventful it was. At this moment, I wouldn't even re-watch 'The Family' if I had absolutely nothing to do on a Saturday afternoon and it was playing commercial-free on TBS. The movie itself is more boring than anything else that could be wasting my time.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Fox has placed 'The Family' on a Region A BD-50 in a two-disc blue Elite keepcase that vertically slides into glossy cardboard keepcase. This set includes a Blu-ray, a DVD, a Digital Copy and an Ultraviolet copy of the movie. Upon inserting the disc, you're forced to watch a Fox vanity reel and an FBI warning. Skippable trailers for 'Out of the Furnace,' 'Paranoia' and 'Don Jon' also play before the main menu.
'The Family' features a sporadically strong 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode. The film is presented in a 2.39:1 aspect ratio and offers a nice dusting of film grain.
The amount of visible detail bounces between fantastic and "meh" throughout the entire movie. There's no rhyme or reason to the inconsistency. One shot will feature perfect details; the next will cut away to something else; and when we return to the great shot, the fine details will be missing. When it looks good, you'll see the individual hairs of De Niro's beard. When it doesn't look great, those hairs blend into one gray mass. During the great shots, Pfeiffer's eyelids often feature vertical wrinkles (I imagine she's pleased when they're smoothed out in the mild shots).
Colors have the potential to be vibrant and powerful – like when Fred publicly debates a film on stage in front of an explosively red curtain, or when lens flares offer great electric blue hues – but they're diminished when obscenely strong filters are applied. Golden filters are obviously a favorite for this picture.
Aliasing can be seen a few times in tight corduroy clothing and some of the film's fine-lined on-screen text.
'The Family' comes with a tame 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track that's sufficient, but misses many opportunities to shine. Big eventful noises – like explosions and gunplay – offer great dynamic sound. As ginormous metallic structures explodes, panels of sheet metal can be heard seamlessly flying from front to back. As rockets are fired, they also cause great imaging effects. Gunshots can be heard coming from individual channels as the climactic gunfight occurs. Outside of the moments where great effects mixing is expected, the effects are rather lackluster. Locations don't offer nearly enough environmental effects. For example, the BBQ scene and all high school scenes lack surrounding banter. This happens more often than not. The subtle background sounds are missing.
The film's score is mostly a zany-sounding stereotypical version of French music. When the family lets their inner mobsters loose via violent actions, the score switches gears to reflect a more American approach. Heavily-distorted electric guitar riffs take the forefront - which aren't exactly the most mobster-sounding tones, but I guess they're meant to feel more American than anything. The music isn't exactly dynamic, but it's spread through all of the channels. Music appears to be mixed at equal levels throughout all channels. You can never discern one musical instrument coming from just one channel. They all broadcast the same parts of the music.
The vocal track is clear and properly mixed against the music and effects. No word – French of English – is lost.
I enjoy a good mobster movie – but 'The Family' isn't one. Luc Besson has tried to make a comedic crime movie, but it's not funny and it certainly doesn't succeed as a mobster movie. Flat jokes and the violent criminal element don't blend well. Michelle Pfeiffer plays her part well, but Robert De Niro and Tommy Lee Jones are misused. Nothing happens in this dry movie until the very end, and even then, what arises isn't enough to make the slow ride worth it. The video and audio qualities each have nice moments. The special features are more like promo videos you'd find on Fox's YouTube channel. This disc is lacking in all areas. Even if I had absolutely nothing to do, I wouldn't re-watch it. 'The Family' is a rental at best.