When comedy teams break apart and venture out on their own, itbecomes obvious very quickly who was carrying the load and who was riding the coattails. Jim Abrahams appears to have been riding some coattails. He co-wrote "Airplane" with Jerry and David Zucker, and co-wrote the "Hot Shots" series with Pat Proft. By himself, however, he's directed "Big Business" and "Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael." Apparently, he also invented the Apple Computer with Steve Jobs but is still waiting for Steve to come over and show him how to use the mouse.
Abrahams must think the linchpin for good parody is the vaguely humorous placard, because in "Mafia!" he's spent an inordinate amount of time making sure the screen is filled with semi-clever signs, rather than taking advantage of the real parody possibilities that exist in the gangster genre.
"Mafia!" follows the "Godfather" films fairly closely. Lloyd Bridges fills the Marlon Brando role. Jay Mohr fills the Al Pacino role. Christina Applegate fills the Diane Keaton role. It also spoofs the James Caan role from "The Godfather" and the Sharon Stone role from "Casino," but fills them with such little-known actors that jotting their names down here so they can look them up on the Web while on break from their double-shift at "Arby's" would constitute a thrill both unprecedented and undeserved. Abrahams, in the meantime, does an excellent job of filling the Francis Ford Coppola role -- the one from "Jack."
When doing parody, it helps to muster the courage to actually insult the films being parodied. One gets the sense that had Coppola or Marlon Brando called him right in the middle of a crucial scene, Abrahams would have dropped everything to fly halfway across the world to gently gnaw the zits off their hairy rear-ends.
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