[Screen It]


(1999) (Hugh Grant, James Caan) (PG-13)

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Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
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Smoking Tense Family
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Romantic Comedy: An English auctioneer living in New York must contend with the consequences of being accepted into his fiancÚ's mafia-based family.
Michael Felgate (HUGH GRANT) is an English auctioneer who lives in New York and is in love with Gina Vitale (JEANNE TRIPPLEHORN), a school teacher he's only known for three months. Despite their short romance, Michael decides to propose to Gina. Although she loves him, she turns down his marital offer because she doesn't want his life corrupted by her father, Frank (JAMES CAAN) and his mafia-related associates.

Unbeknownst to her, Michael's already met Frank, along with Ritchie (PAUL LAZAR), Gina's intelligent, but idiotic brother, Vito Graziosi (BURT YOUNG) the head of the mafia family, his hot-tempered son, Johnny (JOHN VENTIMIGLIA), and tough guy Vinnie (JOE VITERELLI). It doesn't take long for them to accept Michael into their "family," all of which means they'll provide him some favors in exchange for some returned to them.

This includes unknowingly laundering their money by auctioning off Johnny's horrible artwork, a point Michael not only tries to hide from Gina, but also from his proper English boss, Phillip Cromwell (JAMES FOX), and a wealthy client and potential buyer, Mr. Morganson (MARK MARGOLIS). While he's initially successful at that, the auction does draw the attention of FBI agents Lewis (SCOTT THOMPSON) and Connell (GERRY BECKER) who inform Michael of how the mob is using him.

Things then quickly spiral even further out of control when Vito wants Michael to continue auctioning their paintings that eventually leads to an accidental, but fatal encounter. From that point on, Michael must figure out how to get Gina and himself out of this mess, all of which includes dealing with her father, Vito's thugs and feigning being a Midwestern-based wise guy, Little Mickey Blue Eyes.

The success of "Analyze This" and the presence of Hugh Grant (along with Jeanne Tripplehorn and James Caan) may draw teenagers to this film.
For brief strong language, some violence and sensuality.
  • HUGH GRANT plays a proper English art auctioneer who finds his life turned upside down when he must agree to certain mob demands to ensure his and his girlfriend's safety.
  • JEANNE TRIPPLEHORN plays his girlfriend, a high school teacher who doesn't want her father and his associates to corrupt Michael.
  • JAMES CAAN plays her father, a member of the mafia who finds himself in a tough situation concerning Michael, his daughter and his mob duties. He also cusses some.
  • BURT YOUNG plays the head of the mob family who orders the execution of several people.
  • JAMES FOX plays Michael's proper British boss who gets drunk at a wedding.
  • JOE VITERELLI plays Vito's tough guy henchman who smokes and is assigned to take care of the family's problem.


    OUR TAKE: 7.5 out of 10
    Once upon a time in America, there existed an immense, family-style organization where loyalty and unity were strong and repercussions swift for those who ran afoul of it. This organization influenced the business and entertainment world as much as it did politics and helped turn a tiny desert town into a thriving metropolis destined for tourists and those with money burning holes in their pockets.

    The organization, of course, was the mafia and despite its members' criminal behavior, it and they became romanticized by a public that had similar notions about Old West gunslingers and 1920s era bank robbers. The entertainment industry didn't exactly let that escape their attention, and many books, TV shows and big-screen movies helped perpetuate those figures and the mob. The best-known was obviously "The Godfather" series that featured the likes of Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro and James Caan.

    Yet with old age, eventual arrests and corporate America taking over Las Vegas, the mob began declining over the years in numbers, influence and in the public's romanticized eye. Just recently, however, there's been a resurgence of mob-related material, including last year's mob spoof, "Mafia!" and this year's surprise hit, "Analyze This" where occasional mafioso portrayer De Niro put on a comic spin on the term "wise guy."

    With this week's release of "Mickey Blue Eyes," it's James Caan's turn to take the mob character for a ride in this amusing and often hilarious tale of an Englishman who unintentionally gets caught up with the mob. Much as was the case with Billy Crystal's character in "Analyze This," the humor of the situation arises from an everyday "normal" person who finds himself dealing with organized crime.

    Whereas Crystal did his usual annoyed/neurotic shtick as it pertained to the related plot, actor Hugh Grant ("Notting Hill," "Four Weddings and a Funeral") plays his trademark, proper romantic comedy character and the effect is well-suited for this premise.

    Not only does it provide for some "fish out of water" scenarios, but it also allows for humor to stem from the contrast between Grant's refined English gentlemanly behavior and appearance, and the more "manly" and tough Italian American mobster characters. The highlight of that is when Caan tries to downgrade Grant's English accent so that he can sound like a mobster and say things like "Fuhgeddaboutit" (forget about it) and "Get the 'hail' out of here."

    Although the film clearly doesn't contain what most would consider sophisticated comedy, its script -- as penned by Adam Scheinman ("Little Big League") and Robert Kuhn ("The Cure") -- is smartly written, features a pleasing range of comedic and sometimes hilarious material, and successfully sets up elements that pay off, or are played off, later in the story.

    Most successful is a series of set pieces that range from character driven comedy to slapstick-style humor. Whether it's a scene where an older Chinese restaurant owner insists that Gina open her fortune cookie to find a marriage proposal, one where Michael does an impromptu striptease-like dance to prevent Gina from seeing some mob artwork in his office, or another where he politely tries to explain his views on violence without offending and/or possibly angering the mob boss, the film has plenty of funny material likely to amuse and please moviegoers.

    Like many such films and especially spoofs, however, the story here starts to run out of gas and comedic material as it sets up the groundwork for the big finale. Although the humor and the audience's reaction greatly subside during this time, the dry spell certainly doesn't ruin the film. That's mostly due to the winning performances from the charming cast.

    While some worried about and others celebrated the apparent demise of Hugh Grant's career after his three-year layoff from moviemaking, his appearance in "Notting Hill" and now this film should reestablish his major star status. Like his "Hill" costar, Julia Roberts, Grant is best at playing romantic comedy characters (their apparent destinies). Here, he creates another fun character the audience immediately adores, and his bewildered reactions to his life unraveling are a hoot to watch.

    Equally as fun is James Caan ("Honeymoon in Vegas," "Misery") as the mobster and future father-in-law. Although he doesn't take the mob caricature as far as De Niro did in "Analyze This," he still delivers a fun performance as the comic, yet still potentially menacing mafioso. Squeezed between the two is Jeanne Tripplehorn ("The Firm," "Basic Instinct") as the reluctant fiancÚ. While she isn't given the best comedic material to work with, she does a decent job with what's there.

    Supporting performances, ranging from Burt Young (best known as Paulie in the "Rocky" films) as the head of the mob family to James Fox ("Patriot Games," "Remains of the Day") as Michael's bemused, English boss, are all good, while perennial tough guy actor, Joe Viterelli ("Analyze This," "Eraser") makes his obligatory appearance in this mob film.

    Overall, the film is a fun and funny diversion and Canadian director Kelly Makin ("The Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy") keeps things moving at a constant and pleasing clip. Although some running gags are abandoned too soon (Caan trying to get a guy to crack by having him standing in the freezer and then running on a treadmill -- "Now I have to put you on mountain climb"), for the most part the dialogue's smart and inspired, the performances are just right, and the jokes are plentiful and varied (with one of the best being Michael finding a lone, used match next to a matchbook from a rival auction house that just had a little run in with a fire). I highly enjoyed this film and imagine most moviegoers will as well. Thus, "Mickey Blue Eyes" rates as a 7.5 out of 10.

    Here's a quick look at the content found in this PG-13 rated comedy. Profanity is heavy due to at least 1 use of the "f" word, while other profanities and a few colorful phrases are present. Violence is extreme due to one accidental shooting death (with blood), attempts to kill others (resulting in fake blood) and other related activities.

    The mobsters in the film obviously have bad attitudes (although most everything's played for laughs -- a point to which some may also take offense) and a few other moments may be offensive to particular viewers A few, brief sexually related comments/actions occur, and a woman wears a suggestive, cleavage revealing outfit while several men are seen in their underwear. Some smoking and drinking occur, with one character being drunk at a reception.

    Beyond that, the film's remaining categories have little or no major objectionable content. Nonetheless, should you still be concerned about the film's appropriateness for anyone in your home, we suggest that you take a closer look at the detailed content listings.

  • We see liquor bottles behind the bar in Frank's restaurant and see Vito drinking wine with his dinner.
  • People have drinks at a reception.
  • People have drinks in a restaurant (including a friend of Gina's who has wine) where two thugs order beer, as does Michael trying to act like a mob member.
  • Vinnie has wine.
  • People have drinks at another reception where Cromwell is drunk.
  • We see a painting of Jesus holding a machine gun with a dead person lying on the ground below him (with blood and bullet holes), as well as a later painting showing a person who's apparently tied up and has been hit by arrows fired from two people (and is also a bit bloody).
  • After a person is accidently shot and killed, we see a pool of blood on the floor around their body. Later, we see two people removing the body that's now covered by black plastic trash bags.
  • We briefly see another dead man with a bullet hole in his head (but no blood).
  • Fake blood squirts out onto someone from a squib, and later does the same for some people who seem to be shot (and we then see the fake "blood" on their clothing).
  • Some truckers delivering artwork/paintings are mean/intimidating to Michael and are apparently always late and never deliver everything they're supposed to.
  • Although it's played for laughs not aimed at her, some Asians could possibly take offense at the portrayal of an older Chinese woman who runs a Chinese restaurant. Likewise, Italian Americans might be offended by the film's portrayal of them as mobsters.
  • Vito and his "family" (including Frank) have both for being involved in organized crime (murder, money laundering, etc...) and coercing Michael into participating. Later, they also want Frank to kill someone or they'll harm his daughter.
  • Michael lies to Gina about his unwilling involvement with the mob (but does so trying to protect her from it).
  • Some viewers may find the film's use of mob-related activities (murder, money laundering, etc...) for humor as being in bad taste.
  • The same holds true for a painting we see of Jesus holding a machine gun with a dead person lying on the ground below him, as well as a later painting showing a person who's apparently tied up and has been hit by arrows fired from two people.
  • Johnny always parks in front of a fire hydrant.
  • Frank breaks into a woman's house.
  • Some scenes listed under "Violence" may also be tense to some viewers, but most are played in a lighthearted, comical fashion.
  • Some may find a scene where a character announces he's come to "bump off" another character as a bit tense, but it's only played for laughs and not purposeful tension. The same holds true for a later scene where after a comically tense setup, it appears that some people are shot and killed, but everyone turns out okay in the end.
  • Handguns/Machine guns, etc...: Used to threaten, kill or seemingly kill several people (and also carried by the authorities). See "Violence" for details.
  • We see a painting of Jesus holding a machine gun with a dead person lying on the ground below him, as well as a later painting showing a person who's apparently tied up and has been hit by arrows fired from two people.
  • Frank gives Michael a handgun that inevitably and repeatedly falls or slips out of his clothing in a restaurant.
  • Due to crowd noise/laughter, the following should be considered a minimum.
  • Phrases: "Chickensh*t," "Idiot," "Shut up," "Jerk," "Screw up" and "Bloody."
  • Instead of reporting an accidental homicide, some characters let the mob take care of disposing of the body.
  • None.
  • A tiny bit of tense music plays near the end of the film.
  • None.
  • Due to crowd noise/laughter, the following should be considered a minimum.
  • At least 1 "f" word (with another possible one), 2 "s" words, 8 hells, 4 asses (all used with "hole"), 1 damn and 13 uses of "Oh my God," 11 of "My God," 4 of "G-damn," 2 each of "For Christ's sakes," "Swear to God" and "Jesus" and 1 use each of "God" and "Oh God" as exclamations.
  • Due to crowd noise/laughter, the following should be considered a minimum (as far as any sexually related comments are concerned).
  • A painting at one of the auctions shows a large woman lying on her stomach with her bare butt exposed. Later, we see some mob paintings that show a person wearing just a fig leaf and another in a bikini.
  • Gina shows some cleavage at a reception, as does a friend of hers.
  • Desperate to do anything to prevent Gina from seeing one of the mob paintings behind her in his office, Michael tries to divert her attention while she talks on the phone. As such, he runs his hands across his clothed nipples in a suggestive fashion, and then drops his pants and then rubs and shakes his rear end at her (we see him in his boxers).
  • As Michael and Frank pose in their tuxes, we see Ritchie in just his tightfitting briefs.
  • Gina comes walking out to greet Michael wearing a low-cut, sexy outfit that shows a lot of cleavage and we then see the two of them kissing.
  • A woman sits on Michael's lap in a restaurant and he passionately kisses her so as not to be recognized by someone else who's there. After that and thinking he's a mob guy from Kansas City, she says, "Kansas City, here I come" and runs her hand down to his clothed crotch (but ends up activating his tape recorder instead).
  • Gina shows cleavage in a dress she's wearing.
  • A mob guy walks into the bathroom where he sees the feet of Michael and Cromwell in a bathroom stall (with Michael behind Cromwell but facing the same direction). The guy then makes a comment about the English ("It figures as much") as we hear Michael tell Cromwell "Stuff it in there" (referring to something nonsexual).
  • Vinnie smokes around five times, while Frank and an FBI agent smoke once and an opposing mob member carries around an unlit cigar.
  • Frank briefly mentions his wife dying when Gina was much younger.
  • How pervasive the mob is in today's world and the way it used to be.
  • Using the mob and their activities for laughs.
  • Gina's doorman playfully punches Michael in the gut several times.
  • We hear that Vinnie served time in prison for some murders and Gina mentions that there were some shootings at school last week (but we only hear and don't see anything about them).
  • We see a painting of Jesus holding a machine gun with a dead and bloody person lying on the ground below him, as well as a later painting showing a person who's apparently tied up and has been hit by arrows fired from two people.
  • Although we don't see any of it, we hear that the mob guys have burned down a building.
  • As Michael forcibly tries to escort Johnny from their place, the thug pulls out a gun. He then punches Michael in the gut, hits him again and then repeatedly slams a lamp across his back. Gina then fires a warning shot into the air that ricochets and strikes Johnny, killing him (somewhat played for laughs).
  • Frank exchanges gunfire with some thugs until both parties recognize each other and stop (this while the other two guys are preparing to bury their latest victim, just like Frank).
  • Michael and Frank struggle at a door as the former believes the latter is going to kill a neighbor of his for being a witness.
  • With his gun slipping down his pants leg, Michael flings out his leg and the gun goes flying. It then hits a server in the gut who then falls to the ground.
  • A person fires a shot at another person but misses. Another person then fires a shot at a fourth person, striking them, drawing blood and sending them falling to the floor. Others then rush in and shoot that third person who also appears to be struck and killed. In the end, however, everyone is okay and no one is killed.

  • Reviewed August 16, 1999 / Posted August 20, 1999

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