FAMILY BUSINESS was by & large panned by reviewers in 1989, then it lagged at 74th place for the year with a take of $12,196,000. Critics slighted director Sidney Lumet and writer Vincent Patrick for haphazard structure, but mostly they got stuck on the obvious nail, which was its casting: Sean Connery, Dustin Hoffman and Matthew Broderick. That class-act group would seem a lock, but they were playing members of the same family. *
Larceny runs in the tribe. ‘Jesse’ (Connery) is a charismatic, light-heartedly unrepentant burglar and brawler. Son ‘Vito’ (Hoffman) has been raised to play crooked, but is trying to stay straight, and keep his son ‘Adam’ (Broderick) from being influenced by grandpa. But a deal too good to pass on shows up.
Patrick (The Pope Of Greenwich Village) based the episodic script on his novel, and Lumet saw the generational family dynamics story in terms of a fable. If you can get past the physical dissimilarity aspect and go with it, it’s entertaining, often funny and occasionally touching, peppered with some good arguments, stories and one-liners. In by far the best part, Connery comes off strongest, in the last of five films with Lumet, who’d guided him to superior work in The Hill and The Offence and solid jobs in The Anderson Tapes and Murder On The Orient Express. Hoffman wisely tones down any temptation to employ quirks and Broderick ably holds his own. In all, not a homer, but a decently smacked run to third base.
110 minutes, with Rosanna DeSoto (excellent as Hoffman’s skeptical wife), Janet Carroll, Victoria Jackson (moonlighting from her 6 years on SNL), Deborah Rush, Bill McCutcheon, Rex Everhart, James Tolkan, Luis Guzman, B.D. Wong, Tony DiBenedetto and Wendell Pierce.
* Connery, 58 playing 60, was only seven years older than ‘son’ Hoffman, 51 playing 43. Broderick, 26 & 23. Sean at 6’2″, Dustin a teence under 5’6″, Matthew 5’8″.