[Screen It]


(2023) (Toni Collette, Monica Bellucci) (R)

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Action-Comedy: An unassuming American woman discovers that she's inherited the role of mob boss in her family's Italian mafia organization.

Things are changing for pharma employee Kristin (TONI COLLETTE). Not only does she have to contend with her son, Domenick (TOMMY RODGER), heading off to college, but she's also learned that her husband, Paul (TIM DAISH), has been cheating on her. Kristen's friend, Jenny (SOPHIA NOMVETE), encourages her to sow her own wild oats, and Kristin gets that chance when she receives a call from Bianca (MONICA BELLUCCI) that her grandfather, Don Giuseppe Balbano (ALESSANDRO BRESSANELLO), has died and that she must travel to Italy as she's in the will.

Once there, she meets the hunky Lorenzo (GIULIO CORSO), but is whisked away to the Balbano estate by bodyguards Aldo (FRANCESCO MASTROIANNI) and Dante (ALFONSO PERUGINI). It's there that she learns that the family's wine business is just a front and that instead, they're a mafia organization and that she's now the boss, much to the resentment of her volatile cousin, Fabrizio (EDUARDO SCARPETTA). Not only that, but she must broker a deal with Carlo Romano (GIUSEPPE ZENO) whose mob family is at war with hers. As she reluctantly deals with all of that, Kristin eventually comes into her own.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10

I've had the fortune -- in obvious unfortunate circumstances -- to be included in a few people's wills. Some of those windfalls have been expected, and some not, but while nice (both in thought and resultant money), none have been potentially life-changing. You know, like inheriting a priceless heirloom or a profitable family business, be that a farm, restaurant, or -- oh, I don't know -- maybe control of a mob organization.

Such is the case in "Mafia Mamma," a goofy comedy that's more miss than hit. It stars Toni Collette as an American woman in a less-than-fulfilling big pharma job, a son who's just headed off to college, and a husband (Tim Daish) who she catches with their son's former guidance counselor in a different sort of "counseling" situation.

Getting both encouragement and permission from her friend (Sophia Nomvete) to go sow her own wild oats, Kristin sets off for Rome. But not initially for an eat, pray, love, find yourself sort of vacation, but instead to attend the funeral of her grandfather who she didn't really know, and learn what she's inherited from the man.

Summoned by Bianca (Monica Bellucci), Kristin arrives in Italy and finds herself instantly smitten with hunky Lorenzo (Giulio Corso), but that's interrupted by a gun battle during the funeral procession and her subsequently learning she was earmarked by dear old grandad to be the don.

That doesn't sit well with her cousin, Fabrizio (Eduardo Scarpetta), who thinks he should have been named that, while a rival mob boss (Giuseppe Zeno) wants to off her, with her unaware of that desire and thus meets him with a lusty desire of her own (in a running "she hasn't had sex in three years" gag that wears out its welcome).

Directed by Catherine Hardwicke from a script by J. Michael Feldman & Debbie Jhoon, the film has a hard time nailing its tone, especially being too goofy (including in many of the film's fairly violent shootouts and gory aftermaths) to work as a black comedy, while the female empowerment bit feels half-hearted and half-baked.

Collette is certainly game for giving it her all, but the script does her no favors and certainly offers no surprises as it goes through the expected motions showing the woman in over her head, managing to bungle her way out of bad situations, and then gaining traction and taking control of her own destiny and so on.

There was certainly some potential here, and the film might have worked better as a limited series run where the characters and situations could have been fleshed out to more engaging, satisfying, and hopefully funny ends. As it stands, and unlike real mob life, it's an offer you can -- and likely should -- refuse. "Mafia Mamma" rates as a 4 out of 10.

Posted April 14, 2023

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