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'Mafia Mamma' review: Toni Collette comedy sleeps with the fishes

Courtesy of Bleecker Street


Attempting to be a campy romp, but instead a vapid waste of talent and resources, Catherine Hardwicke’s “Mafia Mamma” is an SNL sketch that’s somehow been stretched into feature length territory. Considering Toni Collette is one of the finest working actresses today who’s attitude and presence demands, at the very least, some attention, the best joke this lousy comedy can muster involves a running gag about how the main character has never seen “The Godfather.” To her credit, the Oscar nominated actress is committed to the movie and is unafraid of getting entangled in various physical altercations, wherein a high heel shoe is used to bludgeon an assailant's groin and eye socket, but the ingredients never amount to anything other than a lazy, half-baked mafia comedy where even the beautiful Italy locations aren’t given enough screen time. Lots of potential was left on the cutting room floor. 

Colette plays Kristin, a pharmaceutical marketing executive who constantly feels pressured by her all male co-workers to come up with something sexualized, and borderline fabricated, to sell their shady drugs. What’s worse, other than her son leaving home for college, is she’s just discovered her husband is having an affair with the school’s guidance counselor (who then, in one of the film’s agonizing stabs at humor, tries offering Kristin their services on the way out). 

Lost, angry, and alone, a godsend comes in the form of a call from distant relatives explaining that her grandfather, whom she didn’t know nor have a relationship with, has passed away, and in turn discovers he’s also allocated her to be the boss for the family mafia empire. (So much for a quick trip to Italy for good food and a quick bang). Here, family handler Bianca (Monica Bellucci) teaches Kristin the tricks of the trade, including how to handle a series of forthcoming negotiations with the competing Romanian family syndicate, who feel the Italian's have crossed into their territory and are out for blood. 

Writers Amanda Sthers, J. Michael Feldman, and Debbit Jhoon inability at giving these characters traits beyond their heritage is shocking and a smidge offensive. Each Italian speaks with an accent that could make Mario blush, and the Romanians exist solely as an obstacle Kristin needs to overcome. Speaking of Kristin, and bless Colette for squeezing every ounce of creative intellect from this tepid script, but she’s completely one dimensional and her characters’ growth is forced and accidental, like a scene where she poisons a local rival minutes before jumping into bed with him. And the twists thrown in at the last possible second cements “Mafia Mamma” isn’t a campy or ironic movie. It’s just bad. They can’t all be winners, but one wonders how this pairing of filmmaker and talent ended up being this forgettable. 

Grade: D+ 

MAFIA MAMMA opens in theaters Friday, April 14th. 


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