PUBLISHED IN THE LONG ISLAND VOICE JULY 23-29, 1998
Everything you need to know about the movie Mafia! can be summarized in two words: Jim Abrahams.
If you've seen some of Abrahams' other creations -- Airplane! , Hot Shots! , and any of the Naked Gun franchises starring Leslie Neilsen -- then you've probably seen most of the creative ideas in Mafia! at one time or another.
You know the formula: scenes stuffed to the gills with jokes with a preference for sight gags, and if Abrahams can mix in a few bodily fluids and animal orifices in the process, so much the better. Good for at least a few cheap laughs, right?
Mafia! proves otherwise.
A thinly veiled parody of The Godfather, -- only 26 years after the original mind you -- Mafia! stars Lloyd Bridges as a geriatric Don Cortisone (Cortisone = Corleone. Get it? Har!).
Surviving a brutal murder attempt by a padre and a midget, Cortisone realizes his frail disposition requires that either his war hero son Anthony (Jay Mohr, Jerry Maguire, Picture Perfect ) or the psychotic coke-addled one, Joey (Billy Burke, almost a dead ringer for a young Frank Sinatra) take over the family business.
That's really all you need to know, because it's Abraham's unrestrainable sense of humor that serves as the crux of the film, no matter how annoying.
Just how ingratiating a movie Mafia! , or as the subtitles indicate, Jane Austen's Mafia can be, is indicated only a minute into the film. As Anthony is blown to smithereens by an exploding car bomb, the opening credits roll and we find him mugging in front of the camera in various situations. He catches a Frisbee with his mouth, surfs across a bed of flames on a board, and tries some cheerleading -- and was promptly met with a stony silence from the preview audience in the theatre.
In fact, the stonefaced Mohr mailed in his performance in what was obviously a paid vacation, because he's the least memorable part of the film. Christina Applegate is only slightly more memorable as his innocent love interest Jane because her role is a mature spin on her Kelly Bundy character from Married With Children, and Olympia Dukakis sinks to new lows as Anthony's flatulent mother, Sophia.
The only promising performances are by Louis Mandylor as a middle-aged Vincenzo and Jason Fuchs as young Vincenzo, forced to swim across America to escape death in Sicily.
Unfortunately, he didn't swim fast enough. The movie caught up with him.
A Touchstone Release. Directed by Jim Abrahams. Opens July 24.
FILMS BY JIM ABRAHAMS
1980 -- Airplane!
1982 -- Police Squad, Help Wanted
1984 -- Top Secret!
1986 -- Ruthless People
1988 -- Big Business
1990 -- Welcome Home Roxy Carmichael
1991 -- Hot Shots
1993 -- Hot Shots Part Deux
1997 -- First Do No Harm
1998 -- Mafia!
THANKS: Beth Rimmels
© 1998, 1999 Nick Krewen
About Octopus Media Ink