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Lloyd Bridges rules the underworld as the ruthless, powerful...and ceaselessly clumsy...Godfather Vincenzo Cortino. When the time comes to choose the next Don Cortino, however, a riotous rivalry breaks out between his two sons in Jim Abrahams' spoof taking aim at Hollywood's greatest gangster films.
For more about Mafia! and the Mafia! Blu-ray release, see Mafia! Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on January 25, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.0 out of 5.
Director: Jim Abrahams
Writer: Jim Abrahams
Starring: Jay Mohr, Christina Applegate, Lloyd Bridges, Billie Burke, Olympia Dukakis, Pamela Gidley
» See full cast & crew
Mafia! Blu-ray Review
Laugh. Or else.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, January 25, 2013
NOTE: 'Mafia!' is currently available only in a bundle from Mill Creek Home Entertainment.
In this country, we gotta look out for ourselves.
Jim Abrahams is one of the modern masters of the Parody genre and the accompanying Comedy landscape. His films -- on which he works in any number of capacities -- have delighted audiences for decades and hold up well years after release for a myriad of reasons, chief amongst them their inherent sense of humor that never goes out of style as well as their service as offbeat companions of sorts to the classic, time-tested, long-lasting films they spoof. Films like Airplane!, Hot Shots!, and The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! show that the least serious side of the filmmaking business can be big fun and well-received cinema both; more modern spoof artists should take note. But not everything Abrahams ever touched turned to comedy gold. Mafia! is a perfect example of a great idea that didn't quite hit the mark like those other films. It's a noble effort that falls short of greatness but that should nevertheless please Mafia movie aficionados looking for something a little lighter than that genre generally has to offer.
Tony Cortino (Jay Mohr) runs the mighty Peppermill Casino. He's rolling in the dough he so easily separates from his guests -- and even those who never step foot in his establishment -- and living the high life in Las Vegas. He's also a top figure in the mafia. As his story unfolds, so too does that of Vincenzo Cortino (Lloyd Bridges), an Italian immigrant and head of a powerful crime family. Vincenzo escaped Italy as a young boy after an altercation left a drug runner without a key shipment and, worse, without a thumb. In America, Vincenzo makes it big but decades later is shot some 74 times at his son Joey's (Billy Burke) wedding celebration. When Tony -- recently returned home from the Korean Conflict with fiancé Diane (Christina Applegate) in tow -- vows to kill the man who attempted to murder his father, Diane leaves him and the life of crime behind. Tony's hit leads him to big things -- including the casino business -- but also opens up new dangers in the process.
Mafia! hits hard in its opening act with a barrage of "funny" that really pulls the audience into the film. The opening casino sequence is a collection of all things hilariously brainstormed to turn a house of gambling into a playground of the ridiculous where family board games and rigged slot machines absurdly demonstrate the futility of gambling. Of course, Abrahams takes it a step or two further with a gut-busting scene in which the "smarter" people just mail in envelopes full of cash, foregoing the time of travel and the process of actually participating in the gambling and just cutting ties with their money the easy way. The film never finds quite so much steam as it expends in its opening minutes, but not for lack of effort; there are some moments to treasure throughout the film ("run, florist, run!," Chucky killing off a character) but only few are those moments when the picture sometimes struggles to elicit laughs. Mafia! goes gleefully over the top in its efforts with the aid of slapstick, music, and just rearranging bits and pieces to be slightly off for heavy comedic effect. That seems to be the real secret here, of finding the right balance between "extreme" and "slightly off." The film often finds that middle ground to good effect; it's not as consistent as Abrahams' other films, but it's a solid ride nevertheless.
Additionally, the cast is quite adept at playing things straight and handling the material with a sincerity that only accentuates the humor. It's a trademark of these sorts of films but only as effective as the actors make it. While there's no Leslie Nielsen, Charlie Sheen, or Robert Hays to sell the concept and the story, Mafia!'s cast proves at least adequate in delivering its lines and playing for the camera with suitable proficiency. Jay Mohr does the deadpan thing quite well, taking on his role with a subtle absurdity but overlying seriousness that befits the style, the character, and the films Mafia! spoofs. Likewise, veteran Lloyd Bridges handles the material like an old champ, soaking it up and letting it all back out tenfold, turning some potentially "miss" jokes and physical gags into substantially better ones. Of course, Mafia!'s failure rate is a bit higher than other Abrahams films. The script feels a little too forced at times, particularly in those moments when the material just doesn't lend itself to humor and the scriptwriters pull at straws to keep the laugh ratio where it is during the rest of the movie. Can't win 'em all, but more often than not Mafia! makes for a delightful little venture; just don't expect Airplane!-quality filmmaking.
Mafia! Blu-ray, Video Quality
Mafia!'s high definition presentation, courtesy of Mill Creek, doesn't sleep with the fishes, but it's not exactly alive and kicking, either. This is a rather pedestrian Blu-ray transfer that offers solidly unremarkable details and colors. It's sometimes soft and a bit fuzzy, but at other junctures -- the extended wedding celebration, for example -- it offers some rather nice details, good clarity, sharp images, and nearly vibrant colors. Generally, then, details prove rather middling, basically sufficient for a high definition picture but hardly breathtaking. Ditto colors. There's some very light dirt here and there, pale blacks, inconsistent flesh tones, and a grain field that disappears and spikes. Noise can be substantial in some scenes. It's a watchable image but not one Blu-ray fans will turn to to dazzle their friends.
Mafia! Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Mafia! features a minimalist sort of soundtrack. Mill Creek's sound presentation is the definition of "passable;" the film by its nature offers nothing of note beyond the basics, and the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless track strives to only deliver the basics with little attention to finer details. Dialogue is this presentation's primary element. It's serviceable, clear, and unimpeded by other elements. It remains centered in the front and the backbone of the track for the duration. Other pieces of the sonic puzzle play with little energy or clarity; the track has a certain blandness about it, a decided lack of effort to push itself further than the delivery of simple musical and supportive elements that exist beyond what's needed to get the point across. Music spacing is fine across the front, and basic sound effects take basic sonic shape. That's all the movie really needs, but listeners will rightly want something more.
Mafia! Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
This Blu-ray release of Mafia! contains no supplemental content.
Mafia! Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Mafia! is a fair little excursion away from the harder Mafia films it so frequently and so deliciously spoofs. It hits most of the right notes and throws in mention of other, non-Mob flicks for good measure. The laughs don't come as regularly as they do in superior Parodies like The Naked Gun or Airplane!, but there's enough goodness here to warrant a watch, particularly considering the relatively good performances found within. Mill Creek's featureless Blu-ray offers midlevel video and audio. Rent it.
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