(First posted to Bad Movie Night in 2001 or so.)
Ever since Airplane!, the team of Zucker, Abrahams, and Zucker has never been able to recapture the same magic. After they split up at the beginning of the 1990s, their already tired formula of zany sight-gags, excessive literalism, deadpan stupidity, and occasional references to other movies just plain got OLD. With Mafia!, Abrahams' latest entry in this slapstick-comedy subgenre, even the addition of computer-generated special effects couldn't save the film from the low attendance it so richly deserved.
This movie farce draws most of its inspiration (if you can call it that) from The Godfather. As if the title didn't already give away that little tidbit to you. The Family's aging leader, Don Cortizone (get it? Ha ha!), is, well, aging. He's played by Lloyd Bridges, who's also aging — and for whom this film, sadly, will be the final role. He intends to hand the reins of power not to his eldest son (as is the usual tradition), but to his younger son, whom he considers more fit for the job. Naturally, the older son is pissed at this. Hilarity ensues.
But we don't get to find out that this is the actual plot of the movie at first. No no no. We have to sit through 3 or 4 disjointed flashbacks to Don Cortizone's (Ha! Doesn't that name just slay you! What a witty witty bon mot!) childhood, Don Cortizone's son's childhood, Don Cortizone's son's stint in Vegas, Don Cortizone's son's return from The War (I brought you a present! It's a North Korean! Ha ha!), and Don Cortizone's son's car getting blown up. Twice. Hilarity ensues.
And lemme tell you, any joke in all those flashbacks that isn't telegraphed half a minute ahead of time isn't even worth paying attention to. We have the Trained Attack Sheep (Because sheep aren't supposed to be violent! Get it? Ha ha!). We have the son watching a parade in his youth and eating spaghetti on a stick (Because he's Italian! Get it? Ha ha!). We have Don Cortizone (ha ha!) as a little boy wishing upon a falling star, followed by the girl he's sitting next to growing large breasts (Oh! Such subtle, witty humor! I'm dyin' of laughter here!). And if you can't see the Forrest Gump reference coming from a MILE away, you had better start laying off the heavy medication.
We also get to experience the thrill of playing "How many funny names can they think of that start with 'Don'?". Don Cortizone. Don Juan. Don Rickles. Don Adams. Don Philip Sousa. Don Kee Kong (the Chinese mafioso). Don da Don Don, the theme from Dragnet. Don we now our gay apparel. Don run away, Lucy, you've got some 'splaining to do. ... Well, okay, they didn't actually use most of these names. Theirs were even less humorous, if you can believe that.
And even when the film is finally over, you can't leave the theater yet. No no no. You have to stay and see if you can catch all the cute jokes they've hidden in the credits. Oh! The humor! The guffaws! And SUCH an original idea, too! That old gag just never gets tiring, does it!
Yes. Yes, it does. I'm sorry, but the subgenre was milked for all it's worth several movies ago. It's time to move on. Cut your losses, Jim Abrahams. Pack up the rubber chicken and the watermelons and just walk away. Turn your once-proud cinematic talents to documenting the life story of some great and revolutionary thinker. Or to bringing about World Peace. Or to finding a cure for cancer. Or to shrinking Marlon Brando's waistline. Anything. Just don't do another clone of Airplane! that spoofs yet ANOTHER movie genre. Please.
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