The Family seems to want to be a comedy, but its supposedly sympathetic protagonists react to even the slightest discontents with excessive violence.
It maybe wants to be taken seriously, but its hero, Robert De Niro, is too abysmally stupid for anything but comedy. Its violence is too graphic and continual for sympathy, sometimes even for belief. Some of the beatings should have placed their victims in hospitals, if not morgues.
Internal reactions appear in terms of hot irons and murders, and in real life, a teenage daughter beats a man with a tennis racquet to the utter destruction of the racquet. And Michelle Pfeiffer reacts to some slighting remarks she overhears by blowing up a store, supposedly with the remarkers still inside it.
In short, The Family doesn't decide what it wants to do, and ends up doing very little.
De Niro and his family are in the witness protection program in France, because De Niro whistleblew on the big bosses, who are after his life. Yet, De Niro accepts an invitation to take part in a public discussion of crime problems in America, especially the Mafia. This is the kind of incredibility that injures The Family at its very core.
Fortunately, there is a lot of interesting story-- sequential rather than complicated-- and a promising new star in Dianna Agron, the daughter, who swings between melodramatic violence and sugary sentimentality but does reveal a good deal of range.
You will be neither moved by The Family nor convinced by it, but you won't be bored.