Mickey Blue Eyes (1999)
Directed by Kelly Makin
Cast: Hugh Grant, James Caan, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Burt Young, Joe Viterelli, James Fox, Maddie Corman.
1999 105 minutes
Rated: (for profanity and violence).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, August 21, 1999.
"Mickey Blue Eyes," directed by Kelly Makin, comes only five months after the other, fairly similar mob comedy, "Analyze This," which starred Robert De Niro and Billy Crystal, but the basic premise rarely feels cliched or overused, due to the snappy, often rib-ticklingly funny screenplay, by Adam Scheinman and Robert Kuhn. If the romance at the forefront isn't particularly engaging (and for Grant, his other romantic comedy of the year, "Notting Hill," is stronger in this aspect) and the climax is predictable, what makes "Mickey Blues Eyes" entertaining and recommendable are the consistently big laughs that are generated in scene after scene, some of which had me smiling and giggling for several minutes after the comedic payoff.
Michael Felgate (Hugh Grant) is an English art dealer and auctioneer in Manhattan with a profession he enjoys and a girlfriend, Gina (Jeanne Tripplehorn), whom he loves. After Gina tearfully rejects his marriage proposal for unknown reasons, Michael makes his way down to her father's Italian restaurant to talk with him. Never meeting her father, Frank Vitale (James Caan), before, he quickly gets the hint that the reason Gina had been hiding him the whole time is because she was afraid to tell Michael that her family is involved in the big-time mob business. Frank instantly accepts Michael into the family, and after a heart-to-heart talk with Gina in which he lets her know that he cares and loves for her regardless, they become engaged. Complications ensue when Michael unwittingly becomes involved in the illegal family business, and soon finds himself guilty of extortion, money laundering, murder, and having to lie to Gina in fear that he may lose her. Worse yet, Michael is mistaken as Mickey Blue Eyes, another powerful mob boss, a particular problem since he has an English accent, and is just about as far away from being Italian as he could possibly be.
Since the romance between Michael and Gina is underwritten and never truly convincing, there are two major things going for "Mickey Blue Eyes," which are its attributes to being successful: Hugh Grant and the great big laughs. A person could argue that Grant almost always plays the same role in film after film, but I beg to differ. Although both English gentlemen, Grant's character in "Notting Hill" was more reserved and shy than his character here, even if both are likable and yearning for love, while in the past, he has played a wide range of roles, including a slimy stage director in 1995's "An Awfully Big Adventure." What Grant possesses is that vital "everyman" quality that you rarely find in Hollywood, and because of his average looks and good-willed personality, is instantly more accessible to an audience in order for them to root for him. Also, in "Mickey Blue Eyes," Grant puts his comic skills at work like never before and garners several sizable laughs, especially in a scene in which he is trying to use a mobster accent in a restaurant, and fails miserably at it.
On a comedic level, "Mickey Blue Eyes" ranks up there with "American Pie" and "Drop Dead Gorgeous" as being one of the funniest films of the year. Classic sequences and lines of dialgoue abound, including one scene set at a Chinese restaurant in which the owner of the place, shall we say, gets a bit forceful towards Gina to eat her fortune cookie, and ends up spitting out expletives at her. An on-going joke involving a talking, stuffed monkey also is comic gold, as is the charades involving a hearing-impaired old lady who desperately wants to buy a piece of artwork at the latest auction, as well as the clueless involvement of a kindly neighbor of Michael's who more or less witnesses a murder and thinks nothing about it.
Through complicated circumstances, "Mickey Blue Eyes" concludes at the wedding of Michael and Gina, in which a supposed-to-be-fake murder is to take place, and there are a few twists and turns that occur in the last ten minutes. The final curve in the plot is easily predicted from the second a key moment arises, and the happy ending is just a little too abrupt for my taste, but how could you not give a film at least a marginally positive review when it offers so many bright moments? The writing is congruously witty and smart, and the successful humor really is worth the price of admission. "Mickey Blue Eyes" is the film "Analyze This" only wishes it was, both in the enjoyment and comedic departments.
©1999 by Dustin Putman