Mafia Mamma is the story of a woman’s unexpected rise to power in the world of organized crime. Kristin (Toni Collette) is unappreciated. Her sexist company belittles her, her husband is unfaithful, and her son barely acknowledges her existence. When Kristin’s estranged grandfather suddenly dies in Italy, she reluctantly attends the funeral. During her visit—intended to be a vacation of self-care—Kristin learns that her grandfather’s last wish was to have her take over the family business. Unfortunately, this family business is a cadre of illegal activities. On top of that, the rival family senses weakness and attempts a power grab. With the help of her new family members, Kristin must find a way to navigate her crazy situation and hopefully find new love along the way.
What works in Mafia Mamma is the absurdity and homages to genre-adjacent films. While it never quite crosses the technical line, Mafia Mamma flirts with parody. Director Catherine Hardwicke (Thirteen, Twilight) is in on the joke, constantly referencing The Godfather both directly through dialogue and indirectly through visual nods and cues. It also helps that there are no characters—only caricatures that purposely lean into tropes. These include self-righteous younger mobsters who believe they should be in charge, bumbling hench-folk, and a consigliere (Monica Bellucci) fazed by nothing. And as Kristin becomes more embroiled in this new world the ridiculousness increases exponentially, leading to some preposterous situations that combine violence and humor.
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People tired of Italian mafia stereotypes as a punchline may not enjoy Mafia Mamma as much as others. The vast majority of the comedy centers on shock and complete suspension of disbelief. For example, while on a video call for a company meeting Kristin gets: 1) verbally disrespected in a manner that would lead to an HR nightmare; 2) attacked in an assassination attempt that no one notices; 3) gets the upper hand on the trained killer and dispatches him in a very horrific manner; 4) immediately fired without conversation for “appearing drunk,” after the altercation that no one saw. This is just a taste of the jokes Mafia Mamma has to offer. On top of that, the portrayal of Italians could be construed as highly insensitive and/or offensive. Finally, as implied, the gore in Mafia Mamma is surprisingly very graphic and its intensity maybe too much for the squeamish.
Mafia Mamma is a bit of niche entertainment. For those looking for low-brow humor poking fun at well-worn crime genre, this will certainly fill the bill. However, with vapid characters and variable tone, many may find the final product inaccessible.
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Mafia Mamma is available to see exclusively in theaters.