Mickey Blue Eyes
If you’ve seen the trailer for Mickey Blue Eyes, you’ve essentially seen all it has to offer: a proper Englishman among mobsters. The movie’s one-joke premise doesn’t go nearly as far as you’d think it might, particularly with such capable, good-humored actors as Hugh Grant and James Caan in the lead roles. In fact, just the thought of them in a scene together is funnier than anything they actually do.
Grant is Michael Felgate, an art auctioneer deeply in love with schoolteacher Gina Valente (Jeanne Tripplehorn). Michael pops the question; Gina’s response, much to his baffled dismay, is to flee in horror. Later, she explains why: She can’t marry Michael because she doesn’t want to get him involved in her family’s business. “Your father is some sort of mob caterer?” asks Michael, who’s half right.
Word gets around the family fast, and soon Michael meets Frank Vitale (Caan), who takes an instant liking to Michael. To me, this development seems inspired more by plot convenience than by reality — why would an Italian mobster want anything to do with a fancy-pants British guy? — and it denies us the potential fun of watching the irritable Caan play off of the bumbling Grant. In only one scene, when an exasperated Frank tries to teach Michael how to talk like a mobster (the scene is transplanted from the trailer to the movie pretty much intact), do we get any kind of comic tension or rhythm between these two polar-opposite actors.
Blandly directed by Kelly Makin (who did the Kids in the Hall movie Brain Candy a couple years back), from a threadbare script by Adam Scheinman and Robert Kuhn, Mickey Blue Eyes gets bogged down in the kind of tangled-web humor that should have died out with Three’s Company. Michael has to keep lying to Gina about his increasing involvement with her dad and his cronies, especially after he agrees to auction off the aggressively terrible paintings of a young mobster in the family. In one scene, Gina drops by Michael’s office, where one of those paintings is clearly visible, and Michael puts on a big show in order to distract Gina from spotting the painting. The scene, desperately unfunny, assumes that Gina is not only idiotic but also has no peripheral vision (which all teachers must have).
The deceptions pile up, drowning the comedy. Michael poses as “Kansas City Little Big Mickey Blue Eyes,” a gangster no one has heard of, and even if his awful mobster accent fools Frank’s friends, the fact that he looks like Hugh Grant should be a tip-off. An accidental murder pits Frank against the head of the family (Burt Young, who’s looking good these days), leading to an elaborate ruse at Michael and Gina’s wedding. About the only saving graces in this lengthy sequence are an unplanned detonation of a squib and the presence of Scott Thompson, a former Kid in the Hall, as an FBI agent who approaches his disguises like a Method actor: “I’m the best man, and I love chocolate biscuits.”
I’m sure Mickey Blue Eyes got greenlighted well before Analyze This came out, so I can’t say it’s a rip-off, but it suffers in comparison anyway. It turns out not to be about an Englishman among mobsters so much as a rickety farce dependent on a lot of unbelievable lies told to people who should be too smart to believe them. A much fresher comedy might have had James Caan as an Italian mobster who meets English mobster Hugh Grant and tries to accept the British way of carrying out hits: they whack people ever so politely, don’t you know. Hugh Grant as a cool, courteous hit man — now that’s funny; funnier than anything in Mickey Blue Eyes.