Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Mafia! - 1998

"Mafia!" - 1998
Dir. by Jim Abrahams - 1 hr. 23 min.

Official Trailer

by Clayton Hollifield

One of my personal biggest cinematic disappointments came between the creation of the trailer for this film and it's release, when the title went from "Jane Austen's Mafia!" to simply "Mafia!"  The title itself is probably the single best joke that director Jim Abrahams was responsible for since "Airplane," and it was publicly left on the cutting room floor.  I don't know whose door to lay responsibility for this mistake at, and it doesn't really affect the film itself (this is not a mobster film set in costume-era England), but I'm still kind of irritated about that decision fifteen years later.

There's not much point in recounting the plot - as you might expect, "Mafia!" is a send-up of 90's gangster films like "Casino" or "Goodfellas," and even casting back further with jokes about "The Godfather" series.  The main characters are brothers Tony and Joey Cortino (Jay Mohr and Billy Burke, respectively), and their father, Vincenzo (Lloyd Bridges, in his final film).  Tony has a pair of love interests (not concurrently), in idealistic peacenik Diane (Christina Applegate) and stripper Pepper (Pamela Gidley).  And then there are a million incongruent jokes.

If you're in the mood for this type of humor, and you don't want to watch (or don't have access to) "Airplane!" or "Kentucky Fried Movie," "Mafia!" is as good as anything else from the Zuckers and Abrahams.  If you are in the mood, this film has its moments, and there are a handful of jokes that get me every time.  There are a pair of really good comebacks; one from Pepper, after having been caught sleeping with Joey behind Tony's back, and getting called a slut, she shoots back, "That's what we do.  If I was particular, I wouldn't be a slut."  Another scene, later in the film, has Tony distraught over having been passed over for leadership of the family, and being told point blank that it's because he's a loose cannon and a psychopath, responds, "And I deserve respect for that!"  Other that that, as is the norm with this style of humor, it's the death of a thousand cuts.  Each joke isn't necessarily the best thing you've ever heard, but they kind of pile up on you until you succumb to laughter.  Or you turn the movie off in frustration and irritation.

There's not a ton else to say about "Mafia!"  It's not a bad movie, but you need a taste for this sort of thing, and even then this isn't a prime example of what makes these movies fun and worthwhile.  Largely, "Mafia!" is simply Jim Abrahams doing what he does, which is wringing humor out of non sequiturs, sound effects, puns, and twisting familiar cinematic situations.  And it's got Christina Applegate being both funny and beautiful (which isn't the worst way to pass time), and it's also the last movie by Lloyd Bridges.  A lot of the references haven't aged as well as you might hope (there's a groaner of a "Forrest Gump" joke that also leaves me in giggling fits), but who cares?  "Mafia!" wasn't built for the ages, but you also don't have to watch O.J. Simpson trying his hand at comedy here, either.

2 / 5 - TV

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