Review by Cole Groth
If you’ve been waiting to see Toni Collette in a comedic rendition of The Godfather, look no further than Mafia Mamma. From Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke, this crime comedy is as messy of an affair as Collette’s adventure to become a mafia boss is. It’s a fun ride that will surely appeal to people looking for a new kind of raunchy comedy, and through its flaws is a fun theatrical experience worthy of a watch for its uniqueness.
In this fish-out-of-water comedy, Toni Collette stars as Christine, a down-on-her-luck mother who finds herself in an unusual position of power after suddenly becoming the don of a leading Italian mafia gang. While initially wanting to stay in her boring life, she decides to leave after her son goes off to college and her husband cheats on her, causing her to adopt the mantra “Eat, Pray, Fuck,” on her way to Italy.
Once in Italy, Christine is forced between a rock and a hard place as she decides to move the mafia into a more ethical turn while dealing with assassination attempts from a rival group. At first, she is clueless but quickly learns the ropes as she experiences the highs and lows of such a decisive role in life.
It’s a fascinating premise that is unfortunately too uneven to serve the story well. It can’t quite decide whether it’s a violent action/comedy or a standard crime comedy. There are tons of clichéd scenes that are juxtaposed with intense gore and kills. The gore is unnecessary, and it probably should’ve been left out of an otherwise comedically-focused movie. Plenty of characters are one-dimensional and don’t seem real, with Christine’s son and husband being notably weak.
Collette is an incredible actress, and she unfortunately just doesn’t give her all in this. The script seems to be what’s mainly holding her back because almost every other actor gives a somewhat lackluster performance. Some great moments get emotional and don’t end up working because of tired line delivery. This film switches tones every few scenes so it's not surprising that the actors can’t give it their all.
I was fortunate enough to be able to see this film in a crowded theater, thanks to Regal’s Mystery Movie Monday. For those unaware, this program has a random unreleased mid-sized film premiere at Regals nationwide for $5. These showings fill the theater, creating a much better cinematic experience. Movies like Mafia Mamma or Bobby Farrelly’s Champions (which also premiered at an earlier event) benefit significantly from screenings in large theaters because it shows that, while many jokes might not land for me, they land for other people.
All that’s to say that while I didn’t fall in love with this movie, there’s plenty of potential for the audience to enjoy it. There’s a charming quality about the messiness of the script, and the unique premise is utilized reasonably well. Plenty of laugh-out-loud moments will stick in viewers’ minds long after the credits roll. Mafia Mamma is a comedy that should be celebrated for its sheer originality. While there are plenty of comedic misfires or otherwise strange moments, this is a movie that audiences will either love or hate.
Mafia Mamma releases in theaters starting April 14th.