Mickey Blue Eyes
1999, PG-13, 103 min. Directed by Kelly Makin. Starring Joe Viterelli, James Fox, Burt Young, Jeanne Tripplehorn, James Caan, Hugh Grant.
REVIEWED By Hollis Chacona, Fri., Aug. 27, 1999
Stammeringly eloquent and boyishly endearing, with excellent comic timing and just a touch of GQ élan, Hugh Grant seemed destined to fill the shoes of that other charming Brit named Grant. With winning performances in Four Weddings and a Funeral and Notting Hill, Grant proved a perfect lead for romantic comedy. But alas, not for screwball comedy -- not for the frenetic befuddlement of an ordinary man caught up in the vortex of extraordinary circumstances. Grant gives us a “Hmmm” when we're really looking for a “Whoaah,” an amble instead of a dash. It's an approach that might work in another story, but it deflates the energy of Mickey Blue Eyes and muddies the mood. At the heart of the picture is the intriguing notion: Is anyone -- even an erudite English art auctioneer -- invulnerable to offers you can't refuse? When Michael Felgate proposes to the beautiful Gina Vitale (Tripplehorn), he is stunned when she tearfully spurns him. It turns out that Gina's father, Frank (owner of La Trattoria restaurant), is actually a mobster and she doesn't want Michael dragged into the dirty world of hot Cuisinarts and cold meat lockers. But, when he insists that becoming family doesn't necessarily mean becoming Family, Gina relents and the wedding plans are afoot. So are the “favors,” beginning with the taming of the heretofore bullying Teamsters Michael depends upon to deliver his art inventory. Bad enough that Michael must, in return, include some excruciating products of gangland art therapy (Jesus descending from the sky with AK-47) in his oh-so-proper auction, but Gina accidentally kills the painter (who gives the definition of temperamental artist a whole new meaning) and Michael, along with Frank (Caan) must clean up the mess. They don't do a very good job of it, and neither does the movie. By turns bright and silly then cloudy and ominous, the picture can never find a balance of light and dark. It doesn't quite know what it wants to be. Not daring enough to be a good black comedy, it edges up to the shadows (pushed in large part by Young's solid performance as the mob boss, Vito Graziosi) only to run, giggling, back to the sunlight. It has funny moments, but the script lacks cohesion and the cast simply can't supply the energy to pull it together. Grant lacks depth and energy, and the rest of the principals seem to follow his lead. Caan is colorless (where's Sonny Corleone when you need him?) and Tripplehorn is lovely, but lackluster. Maybe Mickey Blue Eyes was headed for the East River right from the start, but if director Makin had any hope of saving it, he needed a much more vibrant palette and a far steadier hand.