[Sidebar] The Worcester Phoenix
August 20 - 27, 1999

[Movie Reviews]

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Once the epitome of illicit power, the post-Gotti mob has declined into a laughing stock of bumbling ineffectuality. That's a boon not just for law enforcement but for Hollywood comedy, as the Sopranos-inspired Analyze This and now Mickey Blue Eyes attest. Once again, lovably flawed professional hit man bonds with lovably flawed professional wimp, and clever comic play with the rich cinema traditions of gangsters and luckless losers ensues.

Phlegmatic, stuttering Hugh Grant takes on the splenetic Billy Crystal role as Manhattan art auctioneer Michael Felgate, whose self-depreciating British stodginess has melted before hot-blooded Gina Vitale (Jeanne Tripplehorn). She's hesitant to marry, though, because her father Frank (an uncharacteristically subdued James Caan) is a crime boss for the Graziosi family. Sure enough, once they're engaged, Gina's Uncle Vito (an emaciated Burt Young) begins to ingratiate himself with Michael, laundering money through his auction house. Hapless bumbling gives way to homicide, and the film's tone switches from good-natured farce to feel-good black comedy as Michael and Frank join forces to extricate themselves from family ties.

In his second film, director Kelly Makin (HBO's The Kids in the Hall) shows the kind of inventive whimsy that characterized Andrew Bergman's earlier mob parody The Freshman; Grant being coached by Caan in pronouncing the Donny Brasco-ism "fegeddaboutit" (he sounds like Schwarzenegger doing Bugs Bunny) is typical of the film's delight in cultural absurdities. With its spoof of conventions deepening into genuine suspense and irony in its hilarious conclusion, Mickey Blue Eyes is a surefire hit.

-- Peter Keough
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