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Review: Parody 'Mafia' an offer you can refuse

Web posted on: Friday, July 24, 1998 3:08:12 PM

From Reviewer Paul Clinton

(CNN) -- Okay, so I did laugh a few times. But I didn't feel good about it. "Mafia" is like a big spaghetti dinner thrown against a wall. Whatever stuck stayed in the movie. Unfortunately, the pasta was undercooked and the sauce was watery.

Filmmaker Jim Abrahams has made a career out of poking fun at some of Hollywood's favorite film genres. Airline disaster movies were sent up with "Airplane," cop movies in the "Naked Gun" series, and military films with "Hot Shots."

So it was only a matter of time before this writer/director, the king of parody, turned his jaundiced eye towards that genre of pasta and plasma known as the mob flick. No stone has been left unturned in this cheesy comedy starring the late Lloyd Bridges as a bumbling godfather and Jay Mohr as his reluctant heir-to-be.

Paul's Pix - Mafia!:
3.8Mb QuickTime movie
Theatrical trailer:
4.1Mb QuickTime movie

Confusing Cortinos

"Mafia" is the story of the Cortino family, which spans nearly a century. Unfortunately, the plot becomes totally confusing as it flashes back and forth from Sicily to New York to Las Vegas willy-nilly. You have the elder Cortino (Bridges) at various ages, then his father, his son and a few cousins, all stumbling through these flashbacks until you can't figure out who is who -- and, what's more, you don't want to.

These parody films are all joke-driven, but there has to be a cohesive story to hang it all on, and you don't have one here.

Olympia Dukakis, who is a brilliant actress, is reduced here to playing a grandmother whose single claim to fame is the ability to pass gas on cue. Christina Applegate does what she can with her role as the Diane Keaton character from the "Godfather" series, and Pamela Gidley, playing a mobster moll, models Sharon Stone's entire "Casino" wardrobe.

'Godfather' among send-ups

All three "Godfather" films are, of course, ripped off left and right, and the same goes for the film "Casino." But the question remains as to why Abrahams felt it necessary to muddy the waters with send-ups of such films as "Jurassic Park," "Child's Play" and "Jaws." None have anything to do with the mafia, and none of the take-offs are funny.

There are sight gags galore. Most are gross, not funny. When they show people playing craps guess what they use as chips? After a while, the gags really begin to make you gag. At one point the entire audience at the screening I attended groaned in unison. (This is not a good thing.)

Abrahams' "Airplane!" was a winner. He also directed the film "Ruthless People" in 1986. That comedy, starring Bette Midler and Danny DeVito, was a very clever farce written by Dale Launer. Abrahams is obviously a very talented man. It would be nice to see him return to straightforward comedies instead of continuing to flog this parody bit to death.

A sad little footnote. This movie was originally titled "Jane Austen's Mafia." But Disney shortened it to just "Mafia" after a survey showed that most Americans had never heard of Jane Austen. Hello!

"Mafia" is stunningly bad. The best thing about this film is that it's only 86 minutes long. Rated PG-13.

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