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It’s easy for the cynics to be gun-ho and stand on their pulpits to criticise any attempt to delve into the lives of mobsters, particularly with a spoof of the culture. There is a fascination of the Mafia lifestyle by the public and it’s been seen over and over since the memorable Godfather films of the 1970s. More recently, the film “Analyze This” and the television series “The Sopranos”, reinforce the view by their sheer success in ratings.
“Mickey Blue Eyes” is almost up with “Analyze This” as far as the level of comedy is concerned. At the heart of the story is Michael Felgate (Hugh Grant), a hard-working auction house manager at Cromwell’s Art House in New York. He is engaged to Gina Vitale (Jeanne Tripplehorn), a schoolteacher and daughter of a Mafia icon Frank Vitale (James Caan). Gina is so fearful of the Mob factor that she initially refuses to wed Michael. There is even an hilarious scene at a Chinese restaurant when there is a misplaced fortune cookie. Quickly though, upon meeting the family, Michael is warmly received by Frank and the wedding becomes set. Michael’s mannerisms need to be seen, as he is “welcomed in”. Then he is strong-armed into auctioning off the paintings of Big Boss Vito Graziosi’s son in a money laundering scheme. Michael gets into trouble and is introduced to the other mobsters as “Mickey Blue Eyes” from Kansas City. His attempts to learn the Mafia lingo from Frank Vitale are humorous.
Generally, the story treads familiar territory, but it’s still very entertaining. Hugh Grant plays a fish out of water, almost like Billy Crystal in “Analyze This”. There is comedy with romantic overtones as we follow the twists and turns waiting to see whether Michael will end up with Gina. Director Kelly Makin does provide some subtle surprises and it’s a worthwhile effort. Jeanne Tripplehorn lacks the vitality and charisma to fill the part proficiently. That was probably the weakest casting appointment. James Caan’s great acting craft (from his brilliant Godfather role) still holds firm after all these years, and he plays the well-intentioned, but bumbling Mafia Dad, exceedingly well in his limited screen time. The supporting Mob cast do their job effectively, although lacking in some humour. Hugh Grant is very good in the main role of Michael. The laughs are hearty when he’s surrounded by the Mob and in pretending to be one of them. The film shows him to great advantage.