Mickey Blue Eyes

Mickey Blue Eyes (1999)
Warner Home Video
Cast: Hugh Grant, James CaanJeanne Tripplehorn
Extras: Commentary Track, Theatrical Trailer

I am not sure whether the success of Harold Ramis’ "Analyze This" has inspired the creation of the movie "Mickey Blue Eyes", but even if it did, this version of a Mafia spoof with Hugh Grant in the lead stands on some solid feet of its own. In part it has no doubt to do with the fact that Englishman Hugh Grant adds some sort of ‘exoticism’ to the film that creates such a stark clash with the rough world of mobsters in New York, that it is intrinsically funny all by itself. It also has to be attributed to the finely crafted script that creates the perfect surroundings for this story to work. The result is a truly funny and highly entertaining comedy with some romantic elements woven into.

Michael Felgate (Hugh Grant) is a polished and successful Manhattan art auctioneer who is steadily climbing the ladder of corporate success. After dating Gina (Jeanne Tripplehorn) an enchanting teacher for three months, he proposes to her and plans to meet her family. But there’s a secret Gina has kept from him for these three months. She is the daughter of a Mafia kingpin (James Caan), a gangster who extracts money for the mob.

Unafraid of the implications it could have to date and marry a mobster’s daughter and warned by Gina about the tactics of her family, Michael goes ahead and meets the family, starting with her father Frank, making it all the way to ‘Uncle’ Vito Graziosi (Burt Young). Immediately the mobsters try to include Michael in their intimate ring of business, but Michael refuses, firmly intent to stay clean. But things change. His business is thriving and for the first time ever, art pieces a re delivered intact, complete and on time, while competing auctioning house Sotheby’s is burning to its basements. What at first seems like some very lucky incidents, soon turns out to be personal favors by the powerful Sicilian puppeteers, and before he knows it, it is time for Michael to pay back some of those favors.

Graziosi uses the paintings of his grossly untalented son to have them auctioned off at Michael’s auctions in a scam to launder money. Soon Michael even has a real mobster’s name "Mickey Blue Eyes", but for better or worse, he has to break free from these shackles and tell Gina the truth. That he has been corrupted by her father and his friends, and that he will set everything straight… or so he hopes.

Hugh Grant’s bumbling and fumbling character is a delight and makes this movie so much fun to watch. As I mentioned before the clash of the cultivated British character with the lowlife mobsters is implicitly funny, but when Grant starts to switch sides and takes on a mobster’s accent, you will be laughing tears. The same is true for James Caan, who turns out to be such a perfect candidate for the part as Gina’s father. Whenever he talks to Michael and convinces him that he will straighten things out, we are willing to believe him. After all his is very personable and reasonable, isn’t he? Well, only, until he either puts down the phone and gets back to business.

The movie’s script makes good use of the comic moments that present themselves, never really missing an opportunity to push a stereotype over the edge. The film plays like a cartoon of stylized mobsters, never taking itself seriously and playing off the pot shots as they come.

The longer the movie runs, the more hair raising some of the situations get until it seems impossible for Michael to ever escape the grasp of the Mafia. Deeper and deeper he is pulled into the maelstrom of events and with every minute his character becomes more helpless, fumbling and failing. Ultimately it is the way he fails that makes us laugh and how every attempt to make things right, results in an even greater disaster.

The DVD of "Mickey Blue Eyes" that Warner Home Video is presenting here contains the film in a <$PS,widescreen> presentation as well as in a <$PS,fullframe> transfer. The <$PS,widescreen> transfer restores the movie’s original 1.85:1 aspect ratio in a transfer that is highly detailed. Although the <$PS,fullframe> presentation crops the image on the side at times, for the most part it is realized as an <$OpenMatte,open matte> transfer, revealing more picture information at the top and bottom of the screen to create the desired 1:33:1 aspect ratio.

Both transfers have vibrant colors with well-saturated hues and without any signs of <$chroma,chroma noise>. Blacks are very well defined and solid while the highlights in the presentation are always balanced and natural looking. The same is true for fleshtones, which render very accurately, even under difficult lighting conditions. The level of detail visible in this presentation is also very high in both transfers, nicely reproducing the original film print. Compression has been done well without distracting artifacts or edge-enhancement.

"Mickey Blue Eyes" contains an English language <$5.1,5.1 channel> <$DD,Dolby Digital> audio track, combined with selectable English subtitles. The soundtrack has a natural quality to itself that nicely complements the naturalistic feel of the entire movie. Although there is some bass extension and surround usage, the film is very front loaded, as expected, and makes use of the discrete surround channels sparingly, only in a handful of scenes. The release contains a <$commentary,commentary track> by director Kelly Makin that is informative, although a bit dry and slow at times. In an almost detached manner, Makin covers much of the technical production aspects of the movie and how things came together, but he does not explore too much of the personal aspects or a lot of the behind-the-scenes information with the personal touch that makes many other commentaries so memorable. Nonetheless, it certainly helps to get a feel for the filmmakers’ intentions and how things came together. Apart from this supplement you will also find the movie’s theatrical trailer on the disc.

Hugh Grant is certainly not a particularly versatile actor, mostly portraying the same charming sunny-boy character over and again. But it is great to see how well filmmakers make use of this side of him by creating movies that play off that premise real well. "Mickey Blue Eyes" is a good example for that. The film wouldn’t be half as funny with an actor in the lead who does not have the straight and clean-cut image that Grant does. He is the most unlikely mobster you can possibly think of, and the film takes this idea and runs with it, generating a wave of laughs. Once again, we have a great mobster spoof here, nicely presented in Warner Home Video’s signature quality style.