Old Jokes From a Tired 'Crew'
By Michael O'Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 25, 2000
Okay, what have we got here with "The Crew"? Four crotchety guys get
called out of retirement to relive the glory days of their youth.
Oldfellas: Seymour Cassell, Dan Hedaya, Burt Reynolds and Richard Dreyfuss.
Wait a minute, you're thinking, didn't I just see "Space Cowboys" three
weeks ago? Wrong bunch of crotchety guys. Instead of "Grumpy Old Astronauts,"
what we have here is "Grumpy Old Mobsters." And in place of "Cowboys'‚"
geriatric quartet of former Air Force flyboys hired by NASA to rope an errant
Russian satellite, this long-in-the-tooth "Crew" stars Burt Reynolds, Richard
Dreyfuss, Dan Hedaya and Seymour Cassell as out-of-commission Mafiosi who
stage one last caper to keep their Miami Beach apartment building from
Apologies and thanks to the Highly Trained Professional Journalist (okay, it
was my brother), from whom I stole the above "Grumpy Old Mobsters" line.
Sounds cheesy, I know, not to mention lazy, or worse, plagiaristic. Yeah, but
why should I feel guilty about cribbing lines when the filmmakers can't even
be bothered to come up with a believable character or an original joke?
Instead of fully fleshed out human beings, what we get from sitcom vets
Michael Dinner, the director, and Barry Fanaro, the screenwriter, are
two-dimensional stereotypes whose DNA was lifted from a long lineage of
wiseguy movies and easy laughs at the expense of New Jersey, South Florida,
Italians, Jews, Latinos, seniors and venal, conniving women.
To wit: Reynolds is Joey "Bats" Pistella, a wiseguy whose hair-trigger
temper and fondness for breaking bones with sporting equipment has earned him
his proud moniker. He ekes out a living on Social Security and minimum-wage
jobs at Burger King. Hedaya plays one-time arsonist and havoc-wreaker Mike
"The Brick" Donatelli, who now works as a mortuary makeup artist, whiling
away the golden years exchanging greeting cards with old mob cronies. Cassell
is Tony "Mouth" Donato, who, in a touch of feeble irony, barely speaks (har
har). As Bobby "The Narrator" Bartellemeo, Dreyfuss nudges the sluggish plot
forward in a thick, faux-Joisey voice-over that becomes more grating by the
minute. A career criminal whose evil ways and time spent in the slammer have
caused him to lose touch with his daughter, Bobby gets a touching little
sub-plot all to himself. Rest assured, it will resolve itself in exactly the
way and at exactly the moment you most expect it to.
To lower the property values in their building, the crew drags a stiff from
the Brick's day job, pumps it full of lead and leaves it in the lobby to
scare off the yuppies. The plan backfires, though, when the now headless
corpse (Manuel Estanillo) is identified as the father of a South American
drug lord (Miguel Sandoval), who mistakenly believes that war has been
declared on him and his cartel. Meanwhile, hooker Ferris Lowenstein (the
always unwelcome Jennifer Tilly, whose adenoids give her bosom a run for its
money), finds out about the plot from the libidinous and suddenly
loose-lipped Mouth, whose "prostate the size of a Vidalia onion" apparently
doesn't prevent him from making the beast with two backs. Ferris drags the
boys deeper into danger by blackmailing them into offing her stepmother
Pepper (Lainie Kazan) in exchange for her silence. Throughout it all, a pair
of inept cops who used to be lovers (Carrie-Anne Moss and Jeremy Piven)
bicker while pretending to investigate the escalating spiral of crime.
"Thank God your father's dead," says Pepper, after uncovering Ferris's plot,
"because this would kill him." (And thank God for Lainie Kazan, probably the
only actress alive who can still get away with warmed over borscht-belt
chestnuts like that.)
There are a few other choice laughs: Some sight gags involving dead bodies
wearing lipstick and a scene of Richard Dreyfuss hurtling into a swimming
pool from his apartment window provoke a chuckle, if you like that sort of
thing. And Fanaro manages to get in a good dig at lax gun laws ("Thanks
Joey," says Bats to the freelance gun dealer who supplies him with firepower.
"Thank the Republicans," is the reply). But all in all, this tired, listless
and anemic "Crew" needs a stiff shot of Geritol if it hopes to provide an
opportunity for something other than a nice, long nap.
THE CREW (PG-13, 88 minutes) Contains wind-breaking, obscenity, cartoonish
violence, a glimpse of topless sunbathers and a wrinkly man's derriere, strip
club scenes, gunplay, toe-sucking and public urination.