Director Jim Abrahams isn’t perfect. Following up both glorious Hot Shots films and the Naked Gun trilogy with Mafia! is a tough sell. Abrahams spoof on Godfather, Casino, and everything else he can parody does feel scattered. It doesn’t make it any less enjoyable.
Mafia’s problem is mostly repetition. The flow is a little stunted and inconsistent. Opening on Tony Cortino’s (Jay Mohr) casino, the camera pans over the attractions. Attendees play gambling versions of board games… three times. It works the first, not so much the third. It’s also a desperate film that wants the warm locations set in old Italy, swapping time frames to capture the gags it couldn’t fit before. Those aren’t running gags; they’re filler.
For its quirks though, Mafia remains under appreciated. What it lacks in snap, it gains in fantastic background gags, visual puns, and some genuinely smart writing. Abrahams style isn’t lost. Lloyd Bridges as a clumsy Don is wonderful, as is the sauce pumped into his veins via IV as his health dwindles.
Mafia doesn’t let the audience figure much out on their own. It’s more direct in its comedy than Airplane. Maybe that’s what gives people misgivings. Mafia doesn’t come across as clever, just reaching for some of its laughs. Italians boycotted the film based on this characterized representation. IV lines filled with Ragu will do that.
What it may lack in consistent tone, it can make up with witty lines, smart ass responses, and clever spoofs. Cinematographer Pierre Letarte nails the look of Godfather as well as he does the blinding light of Casino. The source is respected as often as it’s offended, but always with affection.
This is – to date – was Abrahams last film behind the lens. He worked out Scary Movie 4 as a writer and hasn’t been seen amongst the Hollywood comedic scene since. Mafia is a hidden gem of a spoof, an easy kick back film that draws an audience in and doesn’t let go (even if you feel embarrassed to be laughing). It remains relevant, despite an ending that seems to leap from nowhere. No matter; the loopy, gag-filled end credits are the best part. [xrr rating=3/5 label=Movie]
Mill Creek issues a readily forgotten film to Blu-ray in a double pack with The Crew. One disc, two movies, and somehow Mafia turns out all right. There are surprisingly few compression concerns, the grain light enough as to not be a surface element. It hasn’t been scrubbed either as it does show from time to time with some control. A few backgrounds turn hazy from the AVC encode before a rapid recovery.
Of all the things this somewhat dated master does, it’s the color that leaps out. Huge saturation will brings the casino to life, and you can’t miss the tint given to the flashback sequences. Reds may run slightly aground in their aggression, but it’s impossible to write this one off so readily. Flesh tones are clean and the piece looks respectful to the source.
Age hasn’t been kind to the print though, with often heavy splotches of damage, that allowing leniency for all the burned in subtitles and some special effect shots. Specks and dirt are over much of the film with few moments appearing clean. A final still of Christina Applegate during the credits carries a scratch right down the side of her face, although clean-up won’t do much for a shot like that. It’s more or less a statement of how this print exists in its current state.
Source cinematography will produce clean close-ups, most of Mafia a little softer than most. Medium shots can carry a slight haze, although not one caused by a screw up in the transfer process. This one looks to be free of any manipulation, no filtering or foul edges in sight. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Video]
Ditching 5.1 for a meager 2.0 DTS-HD offering, Mafia will fare better than you’d likely expect. The spacing is generous in crowds, whether it’s a wedding or parade. Elements can be heard distinctly on either side of the soundstage. What is lost to the missing surrounds in a 42-gunshot wound dance sequence is arguably gained by appreciation for the split fronts.
Musical numbers don’t carry any age, and neither does the dialogue. This a consistent late ’90s performer from the outset as an explosion sends Jay Mohr flying across the screen… for two minutes. It’s a lot of fun for being trapped between two speakers. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Audio]
Move along people. Nothing to see here. [xrr rating=0/5 label=Extras]
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