Friends and Family Movie Review

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What if gay guys were tough? What if mafia bosses were warm and cuddly? What if loving parents were also hardcore off-the-grid anarchists? And what if they all came together in a nutty climax where hilarity would inevitably ensue? Friends and Family screenwriter Joseph Triebwasser poses all these questions in his attempt to find humor in subverting stereotypes, but by tackling far too many for one small screenplay, he's created a screwball comedy with far too many loose screws.

Meet Danny and Stephen (Christopher Gartin and Greg Lauren, nephew of Ralph), a dapper couple who share a palatial New York townhouse which they pay for by working as enforcers for Victor Patrizzi (Tony Lo Bianco), a charming mafia boss. We first encounter the tuxedo-clad twosome as they shake down an opera star in his dressing room between acts of Othello. Hey, gambling debts must be paid.

The gun-toting but sweet-natured duo is thrown into a tizzy when they find out Stephen's parents are coming for a visit. It's not that they have to hide their homosexuality. The parents already know all about that. The problem is their nefarious line of work. Mom and Dad think the two run a catering business and want to enlist their help in throwing Dad a 60th birthday party. The guys quickly get busy hiding their guns and ammo in laundry hampers.

Meanwhile, over at the mobster's house, Victor is concerned that his two sons, one a budding chef and the other a wannabe interior decorator, don't quite fit the traditional mafia mold and aren't cut out to carry on the family business. Mama (Anna Maria Alberghetti in a not-so-triumphant return to the screen) isn't worried. She's sure that her two beloved sons can steal and kill along with the best of them whenever they're properly motivated. And pretty mafia princess daughter Jenny (Rebecca Kreskoff) has an announcement: she's just gotten engaged to Damon (Brian Lane Green), and not only does he not know what her father does for a living, but he's Episcopalian, a fact that gives Mama a severe case of agita.

In order for Stephen to fool his parents into thinking he's a caterer, he has to pull together a massive dinner party, but how? The first step is to recruit the fat Soprano-like underbosses in Patrizzi's crew to act as waiters. But they have to be gay waiters, since clinging to that stereotype will supposedly make the ruse seem more legit. So Stephen and Danny get a flaming friend to put the goombas through a gay boot camp that includes memorizing all of Elizabeth Taylor's husbands and learning how to say things like, "I like Judy, but I like Liza, too. Why should I have to choose?" Those footsteps you hear are all the gay people walking out of the theater right about there. What's really going on here? Is the movie finding its jokes in subverting the stereotypes or in the stereotypes themselves? It's hard to tell.

Eventually the dinner party takes place with food and decoration supplied by Patrizzi's effete sons, but it's interrupted when Damon's crazy anarchist parents (Tovah Feldsuh and Patrick Collins) and their crew bust in with machine guns to take the guests hostage and by doing so somehow bring down the federal government. Hilarity most definitely does not ensue, not even when a few drag queens are thrown into the mix in a final act of comedic desperation. By the time the movie starts to wind down, there are so many people standing around on screen that you find yourself pitying the accountant who had to write out all the actors' paychecks.

Gays often feel obliged to see every gay-themed movie out of loyalty to their community, but in the case of Friends and Family they are hereby given an official exemption. Rent The Wedding Banquet instead and see how Ang Lee takes a similar premise and orchestrates it with grace and humor.

They are family.

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Friends and Family Rating

" Terrible "

Rating: NR, 2001

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