Reviews

'The Last Godfather' Is a Slumping Droolfest

A retiring mob boss names his illegitimate love-child as his successor. Too bad the son is a gibbering idiot.


The Last Godfather

Director: Shim Hyung-rae
Cast: Shim Hyung-rae, Harvey Keitel, Michael Rispoli, Jocelin Donahue, Jason Mewes
Distributor: Lionsgate
Rated: PG-13
Release date: 2011-08-09

The Last Godfather is one of the least funny comedies you’ll ever see. The first English-language film from Korean comedic superstar Shim Hyung-rae—who serves as writer, director, and star—fails miserably on every front. Not only will it not make you laugh, the attempts and humor are stale and derivative to the point where it may actually make you angry.

Shim attempts to create a throwback to the witty physical comedy of icons like Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and even Jacques Tati. Sadly, his efforts to channel such luminaries are so empty that they become infuriating a scant few moments into the film. He has none of the charm and personality of those who came before, and it's grating to watch him bumble his way through a half-assed impersonation with none of the subtlety of those he tries to imitate.

In theory, The Last Godfather is a send-up of all of your favorite classic mafia films, the most obvious allusion being The Godfather, but the references ring so hollow that you’ll feel like you’re watching local community theater. Everything is “Fuggedaboutit”, “No, you fuggedaboutit”, “I’m telling you to fuggedaboutit”, “That’s what I just said, fuggedaboutit”. Surely you think someone is going to turn to the camera and wink, telling you that this is all some misguided joke, you know that moment is coming. But no one does, and you’re left shaking your head.

When mob boss Don Carini (Harvey Keitel) decides the time has come to retire from the crime business, he throws everyone for a loop when he announces that he has an illegitimate Korean love child. The chaos only amplifies when he names his son, Young-gu (Shim), as his successor. Young-gu is a bumbling moron who has spent his entire life in an orphanage. As one nun puts it, “all of God’s creatures are special, but Young-gu is more special”. He’s a mentally hamstrung idiot boy who doesn’t even know how to eat properly. The not-knowing-how-to-eat gag is a well that Shim goes back to time and time again throughout the movie, with little to no success.

Young-gu doesn’t understand the ways of the street, and it’s up to Tony V. (Michael Rispoli), Don Carini’s right-hand-man, to teach him the ways. In the process Young-gu falls down a lot, gets his face stuck in a vacuum, tries on ladies undergarments in the park (apparently parks in New York City used to be full of carts selling bras and bloomers, who knew?), and basically screws up in every conceivable way. There are only so many times you can watch Tony V. tell Don Carini that Young-gu is “just not cut out for this life”, before you want to gouge out your own eyes.

The Last Godfather is painfully tedious, but becomes even more so when the script forces in a romance between Young-gu and Nancy (Jocelin Donahue), the daughter of Don Bonafante (Jon Polito), Don Carini’s sworn enemy. Their story has all the subtlety of a hand grenade. She is a do-gooder who volunteers at an orphanage, and sees Young-gu for the sweet, uncorrupted innocent that he is. Eventually she helps his good qualities win out against the overwhelming evil in their world. His spirit is so infectious that no one can be around him without coming to love the little bastard. Oh, and along the way, Young-gu manages to invent the miniskirt, the beehive hairdo, and the Big Mac, thus revolutionizing American culture forever.

The Last Godfather is a stupid premise, executed horribly. Jason Mewes (Clerks, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back) is the primary antagonist, a power hungry underling in the Bonafante family, so in reality there was no hope for this from the word go. Nothing works. Absolutely nothing. You can watch this without ever cracking a grin. Oh wow, Young-gu burps and snores? Really? Well isn’t that something?

The 100-minute run time drags by so slowly as the story runs back to the same jokes over and over again. Young-gu is clumsy, you get it. You didn’t laugh the first time he knocked something over, so why on earth would you at it chuckle this time? Shim simply slumps his way through this film with a drooling grin, occasionally pausing to attempt some hackneyed slapstick or pretend that The Last Godfather is trying to spoof mob movies. The film fails at each and every turn.

Just in case you wanted to subject yourself to more torment by watching bonus material on the DVD, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. The disc comes with nothing but the theatrical trailer in the special features section. There’s nothing to recommend this package at all, unless you’re such a die-hard Shim Hyung-rae or Harvey Keitel fan, one of the sort that forces themselves to sit through every film in an actor’s cannon, regardless of quality or merit.

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