“The ‘Eyes’ Don’t Have It”
by Scott Mantz
“Mickey Blue Eyes”
Hugh Grant, James Caan,
Directed by Kelly Makin
When Hugh Grant burst onto the scene in 1994’s “Four Weddings and a Funeral”, he seemed to come out of nowhere. “Funeral” was one of the most profitable movies ever, mostly thanks to Grant’s charming “aw, shucks!” performance. He tried different roles, as with “Extreme Measures” (co-produced by girlfriend Elizabeth Hurley), but he always found success as the bumbling-but-charming-Englishman. Sidetracked by a little incident on Sunset Boulevard in 1996 around the release of “Nine Months”, he struck paydirt earlier this year with Julia Roberts in “Notting Hill”. Roberts obviously helped with that film’s success, so Grant is depending on the sometimes funny, but ultimately limp, “Mickey Blue Eyes” (also co-produced by Hurley) to cement his own comeback.
Actually, the timing for “Mickey” couldn’t have been better. Hollywood is hot for stories that give an ironic or humorous twist to the Mob. Although “Mafia” was a major bomb at the box office, the HBO original series “The Sopranos” is immensely popular, thanks to tremendous critical praise and 16 Emmy Awards nominations. Furthermore, the success of “Analyze This” proved that moviegoers were hungry for a humorous twist on this tired subject.
Michael (Hugh Grant) is a New York art house auctioneer who asks his schoolteacher girlfriend Gina (Jeanne Tripplehorn) to marry him. She freaks out and says “no” because of her family ties to the mob. He must meet her mobster father Frank (James Caan) and understand the family situation better before she can say “yes”. Complications ensue, and Michael unwittingly finds himself up to his neck in the family “business”. The more he tries to get out, the further he gets pulled back in (well, that sounds familiar!).
“Mickey” has its moments. The opening scene where Grant proposes to Tripplehorn in a Chinese restaurant is classic, and people are sure to think about it the next time they open a fortune cookie. As with “Notting Hill”, Grant plays it best as the normal guy thrust into unusual circumstances, and you can’t get better than a British guy posing as an Italian mob boss. When auctioning off a disturbing painting by one of the other mobsters, Grant effectively mixes his charm with his comic timing in one of the film’s funniest scenes.
However, what should have been inspired casting turns out to be a missed opportunity. Unlike Robert DeNiro in “Analyze This” and Marlon Brando in “The Freshman”, James Caan underutilizes his previous acting experience playing mobster roles and turns in an uninspired performance. Instead of a hilarious parody of “The Godfather’s” hothead Sonny Corleone, Caan is disappointing as Gina’s crime boss father Frank. You’d be better off checking out his similar, and better, role in 1992’s “Honeymoon in Vegas”.
While “Mickey Blue Eyes” starts out strong, it descends into predictability with derivative elements of that other mob comedy released earlier this year. It’s just another “fish out of water” story with too many similarities to “Analyze This”, right down to the botched wedding in the finale. Also, look around, and you’ll notice many of the supporting characters appear in both films (can’t these guys do anything else?). Finally, instead of the protagonist being a therapist, this time it’s an auctioneer. The British guy faking an Italian accent is funny the first few times, but, like the rest of the movie, it gets old fast.