"The Family"

Making people laugh using violence ain't easy. Just ask any woman how she feels about The Three Stooges.

So it was a risky proposition to make a mafia-themed comedy about a mob boss, his wife and their teenage kids on the lam in rural France. And like buying cases of cigarettes that "fell of the truck" this also turned out to be a bad idea.

Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer co-star as the Brooklyn don and his arson-prone spouse. We see them try, briefly, to fit into village life in Normandy before their true natures emerge and they cause mayhem and inflict bodily harm. Unlike when Moe pokes Curly in the eyes, seeing De Niro beat a man with a baseball doesn't provoke chuckles.

These are terrific actors who seem unsure of who their characters are. The responsibility for this failure lies with writer/director Luc Besson, who made a French art film mistakenly released to a mainstream American audience.

Is this a comedy about rough-edged American fish out of water among the uppity French? Or is it a suspenseful look inside the world of the witness protection program? Neither. It's a waste of good talent and your time.

Pointless violence makes this wrong for teens under 15 years old. (R: Violence, sex and language). 1 hour and 51 minutes.

Ratings (out of 4 stars):

Overall: 1½ stars

Kids: N/A

Teens: 2 stars

Adults: 1½ stars


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Seniors: 1½ stars

Should you watch it? No -- French-made, mob-themed comedy takes a dive.

"Elysium"

I like the idea behind this sci-fi film: war and pollution ravage Earth, prompting the elites to leave the planet and create a suburban utopia on a giant floating space station. The execution of the film, sadly, leaves much to be desired.

Matt Damon plays a hardworking, Earth-bound ex-con forced to take up arms against the orbiting overlords as it his only hope of receiving medical care to cure a fatal dose of radiation.

Jodie Foster, as defense secretary for the satellite dwellers, wants none of it, and lots of shooting ensues. Add in unsubtle allusions to modern-day immigration debates and you're left with a subpar action film that comes across as preachy.

Blood and intense themes make this best for kids 14 years old and up. (R: Violence and language). 1 hour and 49 minutes.

Ratings (out of 4 stars):

Overall: 2 stars

Kids: N/A

Teens: 3 stars

Adults: 2 stars

Seniors: 1½ stars

Should you watch it? No -- dystopian sci-fi film lacks gravity.

"This is the End"

You can almost see this group of A-list comedic actors hanging out together one night, getting drunk and talking about how much fun it would be to do a movie together where they play themselves when the End of Days comes.

And that's exactly what this is. The boys -- James Franco, Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen and Jay Baruchel -- play what seems like simplified versions of themselves and have a great time doing it. The problem is that the rest of us aren't really in on the joke and it comes across as Hollywood naval gazing imbued with humorless stoner-humor.

Too mature for kids younger than 14 and too frivolous for many seniors. (R: Violence, sex, drugs and language). 1 hour and 47 minutes.

Ratings (out of 4 stars):

Overall: 2 stars

Kids: N/A

Teens: 2½ stars

Adults: 2 stars

Seniors: 1 star

Should you watch it? No -- insider Hollywood comedy that just doesn't work.

J.B. Alderman lives in Piedmont and can be reached at jason@alderman.net.