Hugh Grant is the first movie star to spend every moment he’s on screen apologizing for being a movie star. Self-deprecation isn’t just his style; it’s part of his internal software — if he ever stopped acting like a wincingly polite Goody Two-shoes, he might shut down completely. In Mickey Blue Eyes, Grant plays Michael Felgate, a Manhattan fine-art auctioneer who proposes to his sweetheart (Jeanne Tripplehorn) and discovers that she’s the daughter of a Mafia chieftain (James Caan). Suddenly, he’s surrounded by oafish mobsters who all want favors from him. (In one of the few funny scenes, he has to auction off a wiseguy’s painting of Jesus wreaking vengeance with a machine gun.) The supporting cast includes Burt Young (who looks like he’s been on a diet of oat-bran cannoli), meatball-mugged Joe Viterelli, and a bunch of other actors who have skulked, whacked, and bada-binged their way through these cliche goombah roles so often they look about ready to open a theme restaurant.

It’s only when Michael has to impersonate a mobster himself that the movie lurches briefly to life. Pretending to throw a tantrum in a crowded restaurant, Grant wraps his velvet diction and euphonious vowels around phrases like ”Get oudda heah,” and it’s an altogether remarkable sound, like hearing a Savile Row tailor trying to bark in Swedish. Acting like a tough guy — and failing at it miserably — is exactly the sort of thing Hugh Grant should be doing. It provides him with a hilarious way to ditch his darling-masochist personality. But then, having introduced an idea that’s at least as funny as the depressed-hitman concept of Analyze This, the movie mysteriously abandons it. Mickey Blue Eyes never lets Grant develop his pidgin Italian, nice-guy-gone-sociopath routine. Instead, it chokes him off, and we’re left with the same damned, floppy-haired English gent drowning in tact.

Mickey Blue Eyes
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