Family Business

That towering Scot Sean Connery is cast as Jessie McMullen, father to shrimpy Dustin Hoffman and grandpop to nerdy Matthew Broderick. That's just the first leap of faith this seriocomic film demands of an audience. It seems Hoffman's late mother was Italian; she named him Vito. One thing the gifted Hoffman is not is a convincing Vito. Director Sidney Lumet and screenwriter Vincent Patrick, adapting the latter's novel, spend so much time explaining how these three actors could be related that the film takes almost an hour to get going.

Connery is a thief who brought his son, Vito, into the business. After doing time, Vito went straight and built a solid life for his son, Adam (Broderick). But then Adam, an MIT student closer to the permissive Jessie than the strict Vito, initiates a burglary that brings the generational conflicts of the McMullen men to a head.

Thrown a rare meaty scene, the actors gnaw at it like starving mongrels. Hoff-man and Broderick manage an affecting reconciliation, and Connery remains a peerless charmer. Still, there's no telling what drew these three to such trite material. It's like hiring the Rolling Stones and forcing them to sing Barry Manilow.

From The Archives Issue 281: December 28, 1978