1999; Rated PG-13; 103 Minutes
Hugh Grant: Michael Felgate
James Caan: Frank Vitale
Jeanne Tripplehorn: Gina Vitale
Burt Young: Vito Graziosi
James Fox: Philip Cromwell
Produced by Elizabeth
Hurley, Charles Mulvehill and Karen Smith; Directed by
Kelly Makin; Screenwritten by Adam Scheinman
and Robert Kuhn
by DAVID KEYES
have a hard time with apologies. They also have a hard time
with passing wet cement without putting someone in it."
from "The Golden Girls"
movies are among the most deceiving in the motion picture
industry, not because they thrive on the same old formulas,
but because they generate major appeal and often deliver
below our expectations. Manipulated minds see the trailers,
watch the campaigns, and are sure that the movie will be
just as good as promised. Alas, as seen most recently in
the mob comedy "Analyze This," expectations can be dashed.
But now comes a motion picture to change all that called
"Mickey Blue Eyes." The movie isn't a very good one, granted,
but since campaigns and television spots were all but impressive
to begin with, we have no hopes to hold on to. As a result,
we leave the theater with a few minor surprises still etched
in our minds.
Grant stars as Michael Felgate, an auctioneer whose life
begins to take dramatic turns when he proposes to his girlfriend
(of all places, in a Chinese restaurant). Gina (Jeanne Tripplehorn)
is at first astonished, but then she runs away crying her
eyes out, sure that if she were to accept this proposal,
it would only mean trouble for her spouse. Why? Because
she is a member of a mob family, and fears that Michael
will get involved if married to her. He vows to remain distant,
and she accepts the proposal. Not to be surprised, though,
his promise is broken by the efforts of Gina's father, Frank
obviously know who James Caan is, so I'll skip the introduction.
His role as Frank, a lead member of the mob, is one that
is played with such quick wit and precision that Robert
DeNiro should take a few notes. Caan has never had much
trouble playing members of the Mafia in the past (he was
in "The Godfather," after all), but this is a role that
slips past any of our expectations. In "The Godfather,"
we despised his attitude; in "Mickey Blue Eyes," we hate
him in general, but constantly find his jokes funny. This
is, in part, because the script by Adam Scheinman and Robert
Kuhn does not indulge Caan's character to persuade our hatred.
Filmmakers have the tendency to pamper characters so that
they can earn our appreciation when they don't really deserve
it. Here, Frank Vitale remains loathsome and detestable,
but is portrayed with so much energy and humor by James
Caan that, despite our anger, we can laugh along with the
Caan's comic genius is one of the only likable elements
of this frequently mediocre production. The jokes from supporting
characters lack charm, and the chemistry between Michael
and Frank feels recycled. Meanwhile, Hugh Grant, who often
plays British idiots in the movies, has little fun here
trying to lose his accent so that he can fit in with his
father-in-law's business. There is a scene when Frank, behind
the wheel of his car, is giving Michael lessons in Mafia
dialogue. In teaching his son-in-law to say "Fughet about
it," Frank is forced to sit through a few repeating speech
stumbles, as Michael practices the line until he can say
it under successful mob lingo. But by the time he does get
the line right, sadly, we have lost interest. So has Frank.
haven't exactly admired many of these "Mafia" films, but
there comes an occasion when one stands out (i.e., "The
Godfather" and "GoodFellas"), and "Analyze This," this year's
first Mafia-style comedy, was not one of them. Most critics
enjoyed it, however, and repeat audience turnout let the
film become the first comedy of the year to surpass that
special 100-million dollar mark. I compliment "Mickey Blue
Eyes" a little more than "Analyze This" because it has an
advantage over the other--some solid moments of humor, whereas
the Billy Crystal/Robert DeNiro comedy was typecast, corny,
and painfully unfunny. We aren't dealing with some kind
of recommendable product here, but heck, considering the
condition of the genre, "Mickey Blue Eyes" isn't bad stuff.
So "fughet about it."
1999, David Keyes, Cinemaphile.org.
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