April 11th, 2023
MOVIE: MAFIA MAMMA
STARRING: TONI COLLETTE, MONICA BELLUCCI, SOPHIA NOMVETE, GIULIO CORSO
DIRECTED BY: CATHERINE HARDWICKE
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 1 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
A movie like Mafia Mamma was tailor made for the 1980s and 1990s. A concept that would have fit the likes of Kirstie Alley, Cher, or Kathleen Turner in their prime. It’s a “fish out of water” type of scenario, where the overbearing, often persistent mother finds herself thrown into a situation so wacky you just have to see it. Watching Toni Collette play the head of the mafia is a premise that we want to see more of at the theater but this isn’t it. We may have a nostalgia for hits like Splash, Big or Mr. Mom, but those movies gave us something to love. This is something else, which is not funny, nor charming enough to work. Mafia Mamma is a movie you can immediately say, “forgetta bout it”.
There’s not much to the plot really. Based on an original story by Amanda Sthers, we meet Kristin (Collette) and husband Paul (Tim Daish) seeing their son Domenick (Tommy Rodger) off to college. They will be without a kid around for the first time, and instead of finding purpose at her advertising firm, Kristin is feeling lost. As her fate would have it, she discovers that Paul has been cheating on her, and receives a phone call from Bianca (Monica Bellucci) letting her know that grandfather Giuseppe Balbano has died. Instead of worrying about her husband, she takes the next flight to Italy to attend the funeral, and hopefully gives herself a vacation in the process. What she finds out is that grandpa was the Don of the Balbano enterprise and wants Kristin to take over as head of the mafia family. Instead of cooking or cleaning, now she calls the shots, and learns that you don’t mess with a Balbano.
From start to finish I kept waiting for Mafia Mamma to get better. Director Catherine Hardwicke has a strong history as a director, from Thirteen, Lords of Dogtown, and Twilight, but what isn’t working here is the comedy. The screenplay from J. Michael Feldman and Debbie Jhoon think the premise alone can deliver laughs. Seeing a mom struggle to decide to kill a guy, turning the tables and running a legitimate wine business, or accidentally killing a rival mob boss with a stiletto can only go so far. A subplot of Kristin finding a new love in a local named Lorenzo (Giulio Corso) has a bit of energy to it, but as the mob does, the narrative keeps pulling her back into bits that play awkward and lame.
It’s honestly more sad than anything, as Collette is an actor that deserves to stretch her style of performance, as this is a far departure from Hereditary. The Sixth Sense star is going back to her older comedic roots, such as Muriel’s Wedding or Little Miss Sunshine, but unlike those films, her performance feels forced. I wondered if a stage hand was holding a gun on her offscreen because this feels like a hostage being held against their will. I want more movies like Mafia Mamma for Collette but something that is in better service to her.
There’s really not a high point either. The results fall below a movie similar to Analyze This but there’s even less to remember here. Monica Bellucci is her beautiful self, in a role where she ushers the lead character from housewife to top Don, and will undoubtedly have a part in it all because, well, she’s the only other known name. Mafia Mamma should be a fun vehicle for Collette and instead it’s just an offer you should definitely refuse. Boof.
MAFIA MAMMA IS PLAYING IN SELECT THEATERS FRIDAY APRIL 14TH, 2023.
1 ½ STARS
Written by: Leo Brady