Director Jim Abrahams was one of the original trio who ushered in the nonstop-joke spoof genre with their seminal film Airplane! However after eighteen years and countless clones, the genre has lost its luster. Abrahams latest film, Mafia!, isn’t the worst, but doesn’t add any shine to a genre which should be put to rest.
The action mostly parallels the Godfather: Parts I and II. From his humble beginnings in Salmonella, Italy, Vincenzo Cortino (Lloyd Bridges) rises to become an all-powerful (but still klutzy) mafia don. He has two sons to whom he could bequeath his empire of crime: psychopath Joey (Billy Burke), and college-boy Anthony (Jay Mohr).
Following his good guy, bad guy double life, Anthony has two girlfriends. There’s Diane (Christina Applegate), a play on Diane Keaton from The Godfather, and Pepper (Pamela Giley), based on Sharon Stone from Casino.
If you can’t tell already…most of the jokes in the movie are as horribly dated as the genre itself. There are a few nods to semi-recent movies (Forrest Gump, Casino and The English Patient), but most of the film is devoted to such fresh entrees as The Godfather, A Christmas Carol, and Jaws.
The movie isn’t as joke-free as several of Leslie Nielsen’s latest attempts. However, the chuckles are sparsely scattered. This type of film works best with out-of-the-blue rapid fire jokes, but Mafia! continues to bog itself down with lame jokes whose meager payoff isn’t worth the tedious setup.
Jay Mohr gives his role a valiant try, but it is the jokes which carry (or drop) this type of movie. And MAFIA! is a definite fumble. It is somewhat sad that this has to be Lloyd Bridges’ last performance…it won’t be one he’s remembered for.
If you’re in a mood for a wacky comedy this summer that’s genuinely funny, go see There’s Something About Mary. Or, you could stay home and watch Airplane! or The Naked Gun. MAFIA! is just too little, too late.