93 minutes | Rated: PG-13
Opened: Friday, July 24, 1998
Co-written & directed by Jim Abrahams
Starring Jay Mohr, Christina Applegate, Pamela Gidley, Billy Burke, Olymipa Dukakis & Lloyd Bridges
'Mafia!' mostly uneven slapstick wrapped in cumbersome "Godfather"-ish plot
After 20 years of hilariously and deliberately bad trail-blazing spoofs, it looks like writer-director Jim Abrahams ("Airplane!," "Naked Gun," "Hot Shots!") finally ran out of gas the middle of "Mafia!," his new mob movie send-up that deflates like a balloon after the first two reels.
A knock on "The Godfather," "Goodfellas" and other long-retired-to-video gangster movies, "Mafia!" opens with a promising mockery of Martin Scorsese's "Casino" (high stakes games of Chutes and Ladders, anyone?) before plunging into an uneven hour of slapstick wrapped around a cumbersome "Godfather"-ish plot that bounces willy-nilly between three time periods and takes long breaks between gags to explain itself.
Jay Mohr ("Picture Perfect," "Jerry Maguire") stars in an Al Pacino-esque role as the heir apparent to the helm of an Italian crime family empire, although much of the movie involves klutzy patriarch Lloyd Bridges and flashbacks to his immigrant childhood (e.g. standing in line at Ellis Island, reading a book called "How To Speak English With an Italian Accent").
Because of its scattered focus, the movie is hard to follow as it jumps from "Forrest Gump" spoofs in turn-of-the-Century Sicily to "English Patient" sight gags in 1950s Vegas. And while it does get in some pretty good swipes when it zeroes in on the mob genre, far too many jokes are slow burners with punch lines that, after much ado, fizzle completely.
Penned by Abrahams and two other writers (but without David and Jerry Zucker, his partners from the "Airplane!" and "Naked Gun" days), "Mafia!" is at its best early on, when it's taking the machine gun approach to comedy with a barrage of one-liners.
But by the time the movie is half over, it has become a tedious parade of recycled and obvious jokes that anybody with a VCR and a pen could write after renting "The Godfather" and drinking a six pack of beer.
The movie does have its subtle gems, like the IV drip of Ragu sauce in a hospital scene and Mohr's line about meeting his fiancee (Christina Applegate) when "we went to Vassar together" (Vassar is a women's college). But on the whole "Mafia!" is about 65 percent empty rim shots with awkward pauses afterwards for laughter that doesn't come.