Jokes Are Fast and Furious in 'MAFIA!'

The easy way to review a comedy is to quote the movie's jokes. But in a gag-a-second case like "Jane Austen's MAFIA!" it would take thousands of words to fit them all in.

Not every one is worth repeating, of course. An enormous number are silly, stupid, vulgar, pointless, old, borrowed, or blue. But you can't help being impressed by their sheer quantity.

This picture does for dumb humor what "Armageddon" does for action shots and "The Mask of Zorro" does for swordfights, flinging them out so frantically that you feel you've gotten your money's worth long before the halfway mark.

What holds all this horseplay together is a satirical story poking fun at the classic "Godfather" pictures, with an over-the-top Marlon Brando impersonation at its core. "MAFIA!" gains a touch of class by entrusting that impersonation to the late Lloyd Bridges, a versatile actor whose comedy credits include "Airplane!" - the 1980 hit that launched today's wave of self-mocking Hollywood parodies.

Not coincidentally, "Airplane!" was co-directed by "MAFIA!" filmmaker Jim Abrahams, who has turned a flair for rapid-fire farce into a long-running career. One secret of his success is his talent for assembling gifted casts. "MAFIA!" would be far less bearable if not for Bridges as the klutzy mob patriarch, Jay Mohr as his basically decent son, Billy Burke as his basically indecent son, and Christina Applegate as a fiance who inexplicably winds up as president of the United States.

What does any of this have to do with Jane Austen, you may be asking by now? Not a thing; it's just another joke. But since Abrahams has a great love for sequels, you can't help wondering whose unlikely name will grace the title of his next epic.

* Rated PG-13; contains a great deal of sexual innuendo and bathroom humor.

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