Nothing’s going right for Kristen Jordan (Toni Collette). Her fresh ideas as a pharmaceutical marketer are passed over for her male colleagues’ stale ones. Her son Domenick (Tommy Rodger, "The Cursed") is leaving for college and she’s just caught her manchild wannabe rocker husband Paul (Tim Daish) schtupping Domenick’s guidance counselor in their basement. So, when Kristen gets a call from someone named Bianca (Monica Bellucci) telling her her grandfather died and she must come to Italy, thoughts of ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ dance through her head. What she doesn’t know is that Don Giuseppe (Alessandro Bressanello, "The Hand of God") was the head of the Balbano crime family and it was his last wish that she succeed him as a “Mafia Mamma.”
Laura's Review: D
This movie is utterly, utterly dreadful. Writers Amanda Sthers and TV's 'Not Dead Yet's' J. Michael Feldman and Debbie Jhoon have stuffed every cliché imaginable into this fish out of water tale. Kristen’s barely arrived at her grandfather’s estate and there she is, stomping grapes just like Lucy Ricardo! This Italian born American in Roma who can’t speak the language communicates by adding an ‘o’ to English words and apologizes to her poisoner when she inadvertently switches their glasses.
No sooner has Kristen landed with a copious amount of luggage than she’s swept off her feet by Lorenzo (Giulio Corso). She gives him her phone number and is hustled into a waiting car by her driver Aldo (Francesco Mastroianni). Kristen behaves like the gauche tourist she is at the funeral and fails to figure out what’s going on when gunfire rains down on the procession as oranges roll down the street, a ‘subtle’ reference to “The Godfather.” Even after watching granddad’s DVD, where he tells her her father didn’t die in a construction accident, but at the hands of the Romano family and that he wants her to be the ‘boss,’ Kristen has to ask Bianca just what business they are in as her tattooed cousin Fabrizio (Eduardo Scarpetta) seethes. Now it’s time for the makeover montage!
Her granddad’s consiglieri Bianca sends her off to meet rival Carlo Romano (Giuseppe Zeno) with the Balbanos’ territorial demands in Google notes and his inadvertent murder marks her as someone to take seriously. 'Mammone' Romano (Vincenzo Pirrotta) sends in assassin Bruno (Alessandro Cremona, "Malena") just as Kristen dials into a Zoom meeting where of course her male colleagues ignore her as she fights off her attacker on the screen behind them. Director Catherine Hardwicke’s ("Thirteen," "Miss You Already") over the top violence is poorly executed, but Kristen’s dispatching of Bruno gaining her more respect because of the ‘chunks of his scrotum found in his eye socket’ is one of the film’s only funny lines.
Good ideas, like having Kristen use her pharmaceutical background to turn the Balbanos’ drug running into a socially beneficial operation and upgrading the awful wine from granddad’s vineyard front into something notable are squandered with slapdash narratives. By the time Kristen’s coworker lawyer friend Jenny (Sophia Nomvete) arrives from the U.S. to get her off in Italian court, nothing really matters anymore (although Nomvete bursting into song makes for a memorable moment).
Collette, one of the film’s producers, plays things broadly while Bellucci wisely plays it straight. Francesco Mastroianni and Alfonso Perugini as Dante, the Mutt to Aldo’s Jeff, make for a memorable pairing, one of the film’s best assets. But “Mafia Mamma” plays a labored old song, composer Alex Heffes’ score even going all in on the accordion.
Robin's Review: D
Bleecker Street opens “Mafia Mamma” in theaters on 4/14/23.