Past the Popcorn provides South King Media with exclusive reviews of Theatrical and Home Video entertainment. We aim to dig just a little deeper than the surface of what we watch.

I’ve never been convinced that prolific filmmaker Jonathan Demme actually knows what he’s doing. Specifically in the case of Something Wild and Silence of the Lambs, I’m pretty sure the projects just took on lives of their own.

To a degree, I think the same is true of 1988’s Married to the Mob. In general, I’m no fan of comedies about murder, and I specifically think that the Mafia is a poor choice of topic for entertainment. But in casting Michelle Pfeiffer and Matthew Modine as the leads in this mob-spoofing comedy, Demme ended up with something very surprising, if not exactly wild.

Pfeiffer plays Angela, a reluctant mob moll whose husband (Alec Baldwin) is the worst kind of philandering goon. When he runs terribly (and absurdly) afoul of mob boss Tony Russo, Angela attempts to leave the racket and enter her own sort of “witless protection program.” Interfering with that plan are not only the overly-amorous Tony and his wife, but Modine’s FBI agent, who has a knack for getting, um, too close to his suspects. Comedy ensues.

The film naturally hits all the New Jersey / New York / Italian / Mafia stereotypes that you’d expect, and throws in a bunch more for good measure. The comedy is broad and gumsnapping–and both Modine (who, you may be surprised to find, has a real knack for physical comedy) and Pfeiffer turn in performances that will probably surprise you. In fact, if My Cousin Vinny hadn’t come along four years later, Pfeiffer’s big-hair turn here may have been the most fun anyone ever had with a Jersey-girl role.

To be honest, I have to grit my teeth watching Dean Stockwell chew the scenery as Tony–but he nonetheless works in this film. As I recall (and, you know, it’s been a long time), Mercedes Ruehl also won raves for her role as Tony’s wife Connie, and it’s really something seeing Baldwin still looking like his smarmy, hunky, sneering self. And, of course, you get the added bonus of Joan Cusack in one of her classic supporting roles as one member of Connie Russo’s bitchy clique.

The best part for me is just watching Pfeiffer work in her prime, playing against type in so many ways. For a couple decades, she was really one of the best in the biz.

Married to the Mob is included with your Hulu subscription. It’s also available to stream for a small charge at the usual outlets.

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