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'Family Business' (R)

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
December 15, 1989

"Family Business" is an equal opportunity Mafia movie about a Scots-Sicilian-Cherokee-Jewish crime dynasty, a muddled Oedipal wreck of a paternal dramedy that pits grandfather and grandson against dear old dad. It's not the godfather in a tartan, but a dithering, meaningless daddysomething.

Slapdash Sidney Lumet directs this misbegotten three-star vehicle, an overpowered tricycle of a tale with Sean Connery, Dustin Hoffman and Matthew Broderick unconvincing as successive generations of the genetically eclectic McMullen clan. Hoffman, in particular, looks like a squeak from a different bagpipe as Vito, the itchy son of a half-Scots, half-Cherokee gangster and his Sicilian wife.

"If he'd had a proper name instead of Vito, he'd have been five inches taller," says Jessie McMullen (Connery) by way of explaining the physical dissimilarity to his half-Jewish grandson, Adam (Broderick), a bland lad struggling for his independence. Vito, now the owner of a meat factory, gave up an exciting criminal career and his father's blessings for the sake of his wife and son.

Adam, a clean-cut MIT scholar, rejects Vito's middle-class values and drops out of graduate school to become an armed robber like his colorful grandfather. When the two plan a $1 million heist at a genetic research facility, Vito must go along to protect the son, who calls him "a piece of garbage" for no apparent reason. Motivations are few and far between in this tedious and obtuse screenplay, which Vincent Patrick adapted from his own novel.

The score, more appropriate for a Busby Berkeley musical, is but one of the director's higgledy-piggledy choices, no doubt meant to goose up the languishing pace. Hoffman, nervous as a pregnant cat, tries so hard it's exhausting, while Broderick offers even less intensity than we've come to expect from Rob Lowe. Connery would be charming, except that his character is slime.

Keep your nose out of "Family Business."

Family Business is rated PG-13.

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