Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Tommy Lee Jones... and Luc Besson. It should have been great.
The Family Blu-ray Review
It could have been worse. They could have called it Badfellas.The Family – known in other parts of the world under the far less generic title of Malavita (the title of the book it’s loosely based on, which is also known as Badfellas) – is a little bit like a cross between Goodfellas and Kick Ass, both in tone and (at least attempted) wit. It's a distinctively Euro-flavoured blend of underage comic book violence, coming-of-age themes, and gangster temper, which neither works in theory nor in practice.Besson, who appears to have lost all of both the skill and distinctive style that oozed out of his earlier features, struggles to balance the dark humour with the excessive violence and doesn't really seem to know what he's doing at all anymore. He's got a cast to die for – DeNiro and Michelle Pfeiffer as the heads of a strange ex-Mafia household, who are hiding in Normandy under the watch of Tommy Lee Jones's grumpy witness protection chief – and yet he doesn't really know what to do with them.
There are sparks of cleverness – the initial arrival sees the teenage kids on scene-stealing form as they plot to take over their new school, and the mini-story sequences for Pfeiffer at the supermarche and DeNiro with the plumber provide some entertainment in establishing the fact that these guys may have left the life, but the old ways never leave them – but the great ideas, at least on paper, never seem to translate that well. Still, whilst the material itself leaves you feeling that the cast is somewhat wasted, it’s clear that they're definitely having an absolute blast, with De Niro and Pfeiffer revelling in the send-up of the more familiar territory.
The Family Blu-ray Picture QualityThe Family’s strong 1080p/AVC-encoded video presentation, framed in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.39:1 widescreen, is a totally faithful, almost impossible-to-criticise affair which looks largely stunning from start to finish.
Even with his directorial skills in question, Besson still knows how to provide sumptuous visual treats.
Detail is excellent from start to finish, with longterm Besson collaborator Thierry Arbogast on hand to provide some beautifully-framed images which prevail even in the lowest lighting conditions, and render unparalleled shadow detail. Fine object work is impressive, with skin textures, clothing weaves and background observations also of a very high standard. The colour scheme is broad and vibrant, with vivid tones throughout, and black levels remaining strong, deep and rich, with no sign of any crush. Indeed digital defects are largely non-existent, and the presentation is easily demo standard if not quite worthy of a perfect 10.
The Family Blu-ray Sound QualityThe audio accompaniment is also exceptional; a stunning DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless mix which will thoroughly shake things up in your living room, blasting out a barrage of explosive content which pummels you from every angle, but which also delivers on the precision count, observing every fine nuance of the sonic terrain with impressive skill.
Again hitting demo standards, this is an impressive aural accompaniment.
Dialogue comes across clearly and coherently throughout, largely emanating from across the fronts and centre channels, and the whimsical score lends further oomph to the proceedings with a LFE-friendly output that runs almost throughout. It’s the more action-based moments which really ignite the sound-stage, however, as shots erupt out all around and Besson starts blowing things up.
The Family Blu-ray ExtrasA short but fairly engaging Making The Family sees Besson and De Niro both on hand for relatively rare interviews, and The Many Meanings of Fu*% just offers a 1-minute swearing compilation.
Is The Family Blu-ray Worth Buying
If you do end up seeing The Family, even if just for curiosity value, you may well find yourself smiling at all the most unintentional moments. Besson may have lost his touch, but the cast still pool together to provide unexpected entertainment just because they look like they're having so much fun together. Sometimes, that's just enough to turn a bad movie into a perfectly watchable one.
However fluffy and forgettable the fun but flimsy film is, this Blu-ray release is almost impossible to fault.
Excellent video and audio render this Region B-locked UK Blu-ray release a worthy purchase for fans of the film, even if the Extras are next-to non-existent. Those who like the work of Besson and De Niro - in their prime - should consider a rental, but it is far from as impressive as you might expect given this pedigree.
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