According to arbitrary statistics; over 90% of Americans don't know who Jane Austen is, which is why the name was dropped from the promotion of Jane Austen's Mafia! (1998). In other news, at least five quarters of all Popes found to be Catholic. Film at eleven.
Directed and partially written by spoof veteran Jim Abrahams; Mafia! is to The Godfather (1972) as Hot Shots! (1991) is to Top Gun (1986), a merciless p*ss take. The competent yet lacklustre Jay Mohr stars as Tony Cortino, an amalgam of Casino (1995) De Niro and Godfather Pacino, along with Christina 'don't call me Bundy' Applegate ostensibly filling Diane Keaton's shoes. Elder performers Olympia Dukakis and Lloyd Bridges get to suitably degrade themselves, in the late Bridges' case, for the last time, with roles as senior Cortino family members.
This being a spoof movie, large liberties are taken with the films it sends up. Probably the most successful instance comes in the form of a well executed imitation of the explosive Casino opening titles. Unfortunately, this of course comes right at the start of the film, and it's a peak not really matched in the following hour and a bit. The period switching device of The Godfather Part II (1974) is borrowed, allowing the freedom for some amusing asides, but badly breaking up the flow of the movie. The gags manage to keep up a reasonable pace, but often whither on the vine in the hands of performers unskilled in this brand of comedy. Mohr in particular would have served better with a more confident, energetic performance similar to the one he later would display in short lived, cult hit series Action (1999). Fans of the genre will notice some flatly recycled material and will probably miss the input of usual Abrahams collaborators the Zucker brothers.
Though Scorsese's Casino receives plenty of attention, it's superior predecessor Goodfellas (1990) remains inexplicably untapped. Clearly a wasted opportunity as the faster pace and contemporary tone of Scorsese's films lend themselves to parody far more readily than the austere mob epics of Coppola. Grasping cribs from Forrest Gump (1994) and Jurassic Park (1993) suggest Abrahams was struggling for material to pad out the relatively modest eighty odd minute running time. The diminishing returns are finally retired with a successful finale mirroring that of the much maligned Godfather Part III (1990).
Mafia! is a middling entry in a sub-genre that reached it's zenith with the sublime six half hours of Police Squad! (1982). Abrahams benefits greatly from his choice of such classic, strongly iconic films to make fun of. It's this that puts even the mediocre Mafia! way ahead of the facile ilk of Scary Movie (2000) and it's increasingly vulgar sequels. It's difficult to find humour in lampooning material that's already too lame to be taken seriously. Mafia! is a fairly safe bet to raise a chuckle or two from mob and spoof fans alike, but it's not up to the standard of either Hot Shots! instalment.
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