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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Mafia! (Blu-ray)
Mafia! (Blu-ray)
Kino // PG-13 // May 1, 2018 // Region A
List Price: $13.17 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Tyler Foster | posted May 25, 2018 | E-mail the Author
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Although the headlines typically go to the more prolific Zucker brothers, be that the work of David (The Naked Gun, Scary Movie 3) or Jerry (Ghost, Rat Race), the middleman, Jim Abrahams, also managed to carve himself out an individual piece of the comedy pie after the team behind Airplane! and Top Secret went their separate ways. Most notably, Abrahams directed both of the popular Hot Shots! movies, starring Charlie Sheen and Valeria Golino, and featuring Lloyd Bridges as the series' equivalent to Leslie Nielsen. Somewhat less-remembered: 1998's Mafia!, which mashed together The Godfather and its first sequel and Casino to riff on the work of Martin Scorsese and his contemporaries.

The film stars Jay Mohr as Tony Cortino, son of the legendary godfather Vincenzo Cortino (Bridges), currently running a casino with his loose-cannon, coke-addicted brother Joey Cortino (Billy Burke). As with Al Pacino's Michael Corleone, Tony is a good man who's found himself wrapped up in a life of crime, much to the chagrin of his one true love, Diane Steen (Christina Applegate). He's been put in this position after a mysterious hitman puts nearly fifty bullets in his father at Joey's wedding, and is left to untangle the details of a long-standing grudge between his father and a thumbless Italian gangster, all while trying to keep Joey from getting into trouble, and away from his current wife, Pepper Gianini (Pamela Gidley). The viewer, of course, learns of the grudge in flashback sequences detailing Vincenzo's childhood (where he's played by Jason Fuchs) and early fatherhood (where he's played by Louis Mandylor).

Watching movies from the 1980s and 1990s with 2018 eyes is always a bit of a concern, especially when it comes to comedy. Unsurprisingly, Mafia! is very centered around broad racial humor, which may not be particularly offensive (both because it's so dumb and also because it's clearly rooted in the references to other movies), but nonetheless hasn't aged all that well anyway. If it falls under the extremely broad banner of "Italian," Mafia! will plaster the screen with riffs, including the language (Italian words sound funny!), the names (gangsters have goofy nicknames), and at least one cringe-worthy cultural misfire (about ugly Italian women). As with most underwhelming gags, the real crime is less that these aren't politically correct, and more that they just aren't very inspired. There are also a number of jokes that appear to reference '90s pop culture, including a painful hip-hop record-scratch gag, and a handful of awkward pauses that suggest cultural context for a few punchlines has long since evaporated.

The film's slapstick is also hit-and-miss, scoring a handful of laughs but also offering plenty of telegraphed misses. A slow-motion shot of Mohr running to help his father has him outpacing an Olympic runner in the background. There is a belabored bit with talking sheep, and an inexplicable use of a burro's ass as a hiding place. Vincenzo is perpetually clumsy, creating endless opportunities for Bridges (or a body double) to engage in some exaggerated slapstick (although the movie seems to mostly lose track of this running joke during the middle-age sequence). Abrahams also exhibits a weird obsession with unusually grotesque makeup effects, including an alien that makes Mac from Mac and Me look charming, a child cartoonishly splattered against a wall by a door, and the haunting image of Bridges with an entire watermelon slice in his mouth. On the other hand, there are some legitimately inspired moments, including a PG-13-friendly allusion to Joey's enormous package that is so well-staged it's stuck with me for over 20 years, a sex scene in a pool that turns Showgirls into Jaws, and the usual handful that just hit their targets quickly and effectively (one involving a tree, and another involving a poodle come to mind).

Although the Airplane! model of screwball comedy is associated with slapstick, it's these quicker sight gags, and especially the left-turn one-liners that really stand out. An unfunny bit involving a burst water pipe is single-handedly rescued by Mohr deadpanning a perfect non-sequitur one-liner when someone sees him drenched head to toe. The name of the boat that Vincenzo takes from Italy to America is worth a laugh, and upon arrival, Vincenzo develops a really unexpected method of resolving fights. Pamela Gidley also gets in at least one great joke about her dancing background, and she, Jason Fuchs, and Louis Mandylor all have a strong grasp of the style these movies require. Mohr is also pretty good; the film dedicates plenty of time to its Casino riff (in what might represent a losing investment-to-payoff ratio), but he has the cadence down just right, giving the film a strong backdrop of sincerity. Only Applegate feels largely wasted here, with her appearance in the film amounting to an extended cameo.

The Blu-ray
Kino Lorber Studio Classics returns to the film's original poster art, which parodies the poster for The Godfather, rather than the "bomb with heads" (?) art that has been around since the days of VHS. The one-disc release comes in a Viva Elite Blu-ray case, and there is no insert.

The Video and Audio
Presented in 1.78:1 1080p AVC widescreen and with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack, I suspect this presentation of Mafia! does not significantly differ from the one Mill Creek released as a double feature with The Crew back in 2012. It looks decent, offering a minimal but pleasing amount of film grain, adequate detail, and seemingly accurate colors, with no serious print damage or defects. Sound is serviceable, but pretty pedestrian as an experience, as all of the effort is focused on landing the gags rather than the complexity of the sound design. In addition to the 5.1 track, there is also a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track, and English subtitles.

The Extras
As is KLSC's MO as of late, there is one new bonus feature here, an audio commentary by director/co-writer Jim Abrahams and co-writers Greg Norberg and Michael McManus. This is a pleasant affair, where the gang does a bit of rediscovering of the movie, chatting about their points of reference, the techniques that went into making it (quite a bit about post-production, including ADR after Bridges' passing, and mimicking the sound of olives changing colors), as well as touching on their history making spoof comedy and how the film was received. Not nearly as raucous or funny as the commentaries the entire gang did for Airplane! or Top Secret, but a nice add nonetheless.

An original theatrical trailer is also included, along with trailers for Big Business, I'm Gonna Git You Sucka, The Wrong Guy, and Frank McClusky, C.I..

Conclusion
Mafia! is a middling effort from the heyday of spoof movies that does what it says on the package, with a hint of humor that hasn't aged well and more than a dash of clunkers. Those who enjoy the movie with a bit more passion than I do will probably appreciate this low-budget catalog Blu-ray just fine. Rent it.


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