Mickey Blue Eyes

Directed by Kelly Makin
Starring: Hugh Grant, James Caan, Jeanne Tripplehorn.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for brief strong language, some violence and sensuality.

Review by Matt Heffernan
August 20, 1999

You'd think by now that people in the movies would know better than to get married into the mob. If you watch The Godfather, Part II, you can see that it didn't work out too well for Diane Keaton. In the first film, it worked out very badly for Gianni Russo. So now, England's answer to Jimmy Stewart, Hugh Grant, takes a whack at it (no pun intended).

Grant plays Michael, an English art auctioneer. He proposes to his girlfriend, Gina (Jeanne Tripplehorn), but she refuses. She reveals that her father is a mafioso, but Michael is still insistent. After Michael meets her father (James Caan), and gets his blessing, she agrees, on the condition that Michael doesn't get involved with the family business.

Of course, Michael just sort of falls in. "Uncle Vito" (Burt Young), the head of the organization, fixes Michael's problems with the delivery trucks at the auction house. In return, he has Michael auction one of his son's ghastly paintings to a pre-determined buyer in a laundering scheme. After that, he gets deeper and deeper, until he is trapped under Uncle Vito's thumb.

This year already saw a regular-guy-gets-mixed-up-with-the-mob comedy, Analyze This, which was much better. Mickey Blue Eyes takes a different approach, with some success. The first half of the film is exceptionally good, but as Grant's character get further entrenched in his situation, the script gets further entrenched in the plot. Instead of making a parody of the gangsters in mob films, they try to create real characters, which don't really work here. In effect, this film turns out to be less a comedy than an actual mob film. If you go down that road, you have to go down all the way. So now there are a bunch of cartoonish guys that were introduced in the first half, and then the audience is supposed to take them seriously by the end.

Of course, there is also the romantic comedy element to the film. Grant and Tripplehorn are proven masters of the genre, and do their best here. You can't help but like them, even if the situation is questionable. Caan does a good job, even if he is no De Niro. Well, you can't expect Sonny to outdo Don Vito. A welcome crossover from Analyze This is mob film regular Joe Viterelli, who plays another one of Uncle Vito's employees. His part is considerably smaller in this film, but he plays pretty much the same low-key character.

I suppose this premise is still fresh by using Grant. Englishmen don't generally have to worry about getting mixed up in these matters, but it is amusing when they do. After his character realizes he's on the inside, he tells himself to watch Goodfellas, Casino, and all three Godfather films. If he had done that before, he would have known better.

For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
Mickey Blue Eyes (1999)

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Mickey Blue Eyes (1999) -- VHS
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Mickey Blue Eyes: Original Soundtrack -- Compact Disc

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Review © 1999 Matt Heffernan