One-liner: a fun concept, charming cast and upbeat energy power this amusing albeit repetitive comedy home.
The Price of Family (Natale a tutti i costi) is an Italian comedy from writer-director Giovanni Bognetti, which explores the lengths to which parents will go to get their children home for the holidays. Set in the build-up to Christmas, this film toys with image and illusion as the prospect of a windfall inheritance summons a newfound love and respect from two ungrateful brats.
As empty-nesters, Carlo and Anna have discovered just how distant their estranged offspring, Alessandra and Emilio, can be. In a desperate attempt to reconnect, they pretend they’ve landed a six million euro inheritance to draw their permanently distracted and estranged kids back into their lives.
The Price of Family takes a fairly cynical, albeit realistic, view of an estranged family where the kids are only doing the bare minimum to ensure they can keep mom and dad on standby for their own needs. Having flown the coop, it’s now incumbent on their aging parents to literally handle their dirty laundry and serve as a safety net.
While this story may cut close to the bone, its animated and upbeat tone ensures it redresses these tragic circumstances with playful comedy as parents trick their brats into pandering to their every whim. An indictment on our current age of self-sufficient me-orientated lifestyles, it’s fun to see the comical outpouring of a dastardly plan in full effect.
“…and what if we traded in our kids?”
This colourful comedy features a charming ensemble in Christian De Sica, Angela Finocchiaro, Claudio Colica and Dharma Mangia Woods as a middle class family of four. De Sica and Finocchiaro have believable chemistry as the slighted parents as Carlo tries to downplay severity and Anna gets fed up. While Colica and Woods play the spoiled and self-serving kids who couldn’t be bothered, the schadenfreude is real but diluted by their offhanded charms.
Bognetti finds a good balance in this full-blown comedy, keeping the characters relatable and yet cartoonish enough to poke fun. Tapping into universal themes around leaving and cleaving, the fun concept kickstarts proceedings with a sense of just desserts as the kids take up the slack and suddenly become attentive.
While The Price of Family starts with aplomb and hilarity, catapulting us into the master plan with a sense of glee, it’s unable to sustain the novelty. While it’s a fun idea, delivered with enthusiasm by a spirited cast, it’s a case of arrested development when it comes to comedy. Jokes are recycled and lose their traction as it becomes clear that things are as good as they’re going to get.
Ranging into slapstick comedy, the tonal shift becomes hit-and-miss as The Price of Family tries to maintain its energy into the third act. The comedy does hinge on a sense of morality as family duty and greed see-saw until the characters come to a fresh appreciation after true motives are finally revealed.
The Price of Family hits its stride early with an exuberant cast and a fun concept, but seems to get stuck in a loop by trying to get by on repeat formula. While the diminishing returns are felt mostly in the sluggish middle when it tries to shift into more emotional terrain, this upbeat comedy manages to coax enough charm and energy from its game cast to cross the finish line.
The bottom line: Entertaining