All in all, Mafia Mamma will likely become lost to the sands of time. It’s simply not memorable. While Toni Collette and Catherine Hardwicke certainly can be commended for trying their best, the film ultimately suffers from its weak screenplay.
It’s frankly hard to believe that the same woman who brilliantly directed Ashley Greene to pitch a baseball in the most dramatic fashion possible in 2008’s Twilight could also direct a movie as lifeless as Mafia Mamma. The film, which is directed by Catherine Hardwicke and written by Michael J. Feldman and Debbie Jhoon, follows the story of Kristin (Toni Collette), a middle-aged woman who finds herself frustrated with just about every facet of her life- from her crumbling marriage to the job she hates to her son leaving for college. When she receives an ambiguous phone call in regard to the recent death of her grandfather, Kristin is invited (if not urged) to attend his funeral in Italy.
When Kristin agrees, she is terrified to witness a full-on shoot-out occur at her grandfather’s funeral. Through this twisted turn of events, she learns from her grandfather’s assistant, Bianca (Monica Bellucci), that her grandfather was actually a notorious mob boss who was in a brutal feud with a rival Italian family. And, more shockingly, her grandfather’s last wish was for his only grandchild to take over his “duties” as a mob boss. All that comes with it have now been inherited by Kristin, to her dismay. This puts Kristin in what feels like a twisted take on The Princess Diaries, only instead of learning how to be a princess, she learns to be a mob boss. Or, I guess a “Mafia Mamma.”
Despite a well-stacked cast, this film teeters on being hard to watch. While some action sequences (and there are many in this film, lest we forget this is an action movie!) are enough to keep the attention of the viewer, they are overworked, even if the directorial feat of some of the sequences are actually well done. Though, as overworked as they may be, they are not as overworked as the humor. Shoving more Italian stereotypes in the audience’s faces than the video game version of Mario, the film spoon-feeds the audience joke after unfunny joke for the entirety of the runtime. There’s no real story to drive the plot line, which is incredibly simple and predictable.
However, what’s not predictable is just how violent this movie is, and the goriness is a little jarring for a movie that’s marketed as a light comedy. Violence comes with the territory for mob films. You expect to see the horse head in the bed or a brutal shot to the face in a movie like The Godfather. But it’s not something you’d expect out of something that was at least marketed as a movie about a wine mom who never wanted to become a mob boss, just a nice trip to Italy to get away from her soon-to-be-ex-husband. Which begs the question: is it fair to chalk Mafia Mama up to just a throw-away comedy? Should it not be exciting to have a rare female-led mob movie join the canon of an already niche genre? Should we be taking the movie, and Hardwicke’s clear attempt at directing tense action seriously?
The problem is, the movie can’t even answer these questions for you. It’s not quite sure what it wants to be. It will take you from a bloody shoot-out to a silly joke in no time. It somehow manages to take the gun and leave the cannoli in some scenes while leaving the gun and taking the cannoli in others. The inconsistency is a huge turn-off, and the film never earns a satisfying ending.
That is not to say that Toni Collette is not giving a great performance, because she is, all things considered. Making the most of weak material, Collette manages to do what she does best: give the role everything she has. While it’s commendable to see her commitment that we can only expect out of her, and while her comedic chops are arguably underrated (see: Knives Out), not even she can stop this train wreck.
All in all, Mafia Mamma will likely become lost to the sands of time. It’s simply not memorable. While Collette and Hardwicke certainly can be commended for trying their best, the film ultimately suffers from its weak screenplay.
Should be Considered: None
Where to Watch: In Theaters
Lives in NC, where she is on a first name basis with the owners of her favorite pho spot.
Favorite Actress: Angela Bassett
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