Mafia! is a funny send-up of mob and gangster movies from spoof auteur Jim Abrahams. Parodying everything from The Godfather to even Child’s Play, Mafia! does for the criminal underground what Hot Shots! did for war. With an incredibly talented cast and enough jokes for a trilogy of movies, the film risks losing plot and character development for the sake of even more gags. Kino’s Collector’s Edition Blu-ray arrives with a decent A/V presentation but only a commentary track to suffice for special features. Unless you’re an Abrahams devotee, I’d say Skip It.
“Man is like a piece of cheese.”
Late in the third act of Jim Abraham’s ode to mob movies we see the final hit being set up with the players getting into position. As each one finds their mark we cut to an overweight man panting as he climbs a flight of stairs. He pauses, exhales, takes a bite of a sandwich, and keeps working his way up the steps. Funny, right? Unfortunately, he and I shared that exact same exasperated exhale as Mafia! worked to pull itself together for a resolution. Ripe for parody, the mob movie genre can provide an endless supply of puns and visual gags. Unfortunately, it tries to jam them all into 87 minutes with little regard for much else.
Mob boss Tony Cortino (Jay Mohr) runs the successful Peppermill Casino in Las Vegas. “The smart ones just send us the money and save on plane fare,” he narrates as the cash whizzes around his casino from dump trucks to games of Go Fish and Chutes & Ladders. Cut to turn of the century Sicily where Tony’s father Vincenzo is a young Italian immigrant escaping Italy after witnessing his father’s death. Years later, we see the elder Vincenzo Cortino (Lloyd Bridges) now head of a crime family syndicate attending his son Joey’s wedding. Tony arrives with fiance Diane (Christina Applegate) only to see his father shot 74 times on the dance floor while dancing the Macarena. Vowing to seek revenge on his father’s hitman, Tony gets into the family business which inevitably leads him to the casino business where he becomes involved with shady showgirl Pepper. Adding jealous brother Joey to the mix and Tony’s troubles are only beginning.
Using The Godfather Part II and Casino for plotting and framing, Mafia! travels back and forth in time to tell the stories of Vincenzo and Tony. It’s an effective tactic that provides a wealth of material even if you’ve never seen the celebrated films. Combined with an incredible amount of detail in costuming and sets, it’s clear that the film isn’t fooling around (even when it’s fooling around). In terms of casting Jay Mohr’s deadpan reactions are perfectly suited to handle the jokes quite literally flying at his face. My favorite being the “El Nino” line after Tony suffers an unfortunate toilet accident. Christina Applegate has the comedy chops needed for her “Protestant chick who never killed anyone” love interest, Diane. It’s a shame she practically disappears for half the film. Notable supporting cast includes a farting Olympia Dukakis, Vincent Pastore as his usual tough guy persona, and Joe Viterelli looking like he belongs in every mob film. Thankfully, Lloyd Bridges’ Vincenzo fills the Marlon Brando shoes without utilizing an off-putting impression.
There is a stinky odor of desperation with Mafia! that isn’t present with Abrahams’ other films. Jokes either overstay their welcome, like the mob hit on Vincenzo, or are so “groan-worthy” that you often wonder what better material was possibly cut to make room for it. Moments of misplaced genius appear randomly, like a Jaws homage, but are left in the dust for more goofy slapstick filler that doesn’t work as well. Maybe it isn’t necessarily desperation but rather immaturity. With Hot Shots!, a film clearly filled with silly jokes, it’s tone and approach was one made for adults. In it, Charlie Sheen is charismatic and committed as hell to his character, Topper Harley. Jay Mohr not so much. Given the source material for Mafia!, the resulting spoof should be hilarious but not a goofy kid’s primer for The Godfather. Maybe I’m making a mountain out of a molehill here. Comedy isn’t the easiest genre to dissect nor look at comparatively. If it makes you laugh it makes you laugh, right? My favorite story about the film relates to its alternate title: Jane Austen’s Mafia!. This title was used until the first test screening was over. Afterward, the audience participated in a Q&A where it was revealed that no one in the theatre knew who Jane Austen was. Haha!
What Mafia! does well is keep the jokes coming no matter what. Whether it’s a riff on The Lord of the Dance or a well-timed bite of a sandwich, Mafia! has you covered. It’s a fun film that may put narrative and character in the back seat, but who cares, right? The film swings for the fences with everything but the kitchen sink and knowing Abrahams he probably put one in there, too.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Mafia! arrives on Special Edition Blu-ray thanks to Kino Lorber. Housed in a standard keepcase, the disc opens to the Kino Lorber logo before landing on the static menu screen with typical navigation options.
With an AVC encoded 1080p HD transfer in 1.85:1, Mafia! makes the transition to Special Edition Blu-ray with respectable image quality. There is very little noise or dirt in the otherwise clean image. Detail and contrast are mostly balanced giving the colors some room to breathe even when the film packs a dynamic color palette in costuming and elaborate set pieces. Fine film grain is present throughout the feature. Flesh tones are even except during the flashback scenes in Sicily where skin tones appear redder. Some focus issues permeate the feature unfortunately though not terribly noticeable.
The DTS-HD MA 5.1 and 2.0 tracks on the disc are serviceable, given the film’s reliance mostly on dialogue and effects in the audio mix. Hiss is minimal but apparent during ADR sequences or the few intercut segments from additional elements. Dialogue is clear and clean. Surround channels on the 5.1 handle scoring elements mostly but don’t offer much else to the proceedings. The supplied tracks do their job with little fanfare or excitement.
Audio Commentary: Director Jim Abrahams and co-writers/co-producers Greg Norberg and Michael McManus discuss the film.
Mafia! (HD 2:17)
Big Business (HD 2:11)
I’m Gonna Git You Sucka (HD2:11)
The Wrong Guy (HD1:35)
Frank McClusky C.I. (HD 0:37)
Though a funny spoof of The Godfather Saga, Mafia! lacks the heart and memorable characters that made other Abrahams films such a lasting success. Audiences will surely enjoy this hilarious gag fest if they don’t take it too seriously. Kino Lorber’s Blu-ray offers a respectable A/V presentation of the film with minimal special features. For fans of brainless spoof comedies it’s a no-brainer, otherwise I’d say Skip It.