“The Crew,” about a quartet of retired New Jersey mobsters now running out the clock in Miami, would make a pleasant sitcom, perhaps on CBS on Saturday nights, when shows geared toward old people have traditionally been successful.
(Telling detail: Screenwriter Barry Fanaro was writer and executive producer for “The Golden Girls.”)
I say this because the movie seems like it could be the pilot episode. It establishes the characters, sets them on a wacky adventure, and ends with the introduction of a new character — a wife for one of the wiseguys, sure to cause merriment and hijinks in future episodes.
It also resembles a sit-com in that it’s not terribly funny, has more jokes about old men urinating that one cares to hear, and is written in a generic style that was probably intended as satire of the Mafia-film genre, but that comes across as merely lame and hackneyed.
“The ladies thought he was hot, which is ironic, considering he was one of the best arsonists in the tri-state area,” says the narrator, Bobby, played by Richard Dreyfuss. Also: “He was quieter than an introverted trappist monk.” Also: When reference is made to a man cheating on his girlfriend with a blonde bimbo, guess what her name is? The only choices in Generic Movie Land are “Lola” and “Bambi,” and sure enough, it’s Lola.
These are details, but they’re important ones. The entire film is told in that broad, overly jokey style. Metaphorically speaking, it’s as though the entire audience is as comedically deaf as the characters, and so all the jokes have to be yelled in order to be “gotten.”
The four mobsters are ringleader Bobby Bartellemeo (Dreyfuss), hot-tempered Joey “Bats” Pistella (Burt Reynolds, finally admitting he’s old), dim-witted Mike “The Brick” Donatelli (Dan Hedaya), and the unspeaking Tony “Mouth” Donato (Seymour Cassel). They’re happy living in the Raj Mahal retirement hotel, a beachfront place where the sudden influx of young people means that anytime a resident dies (which is often), someone’s there immediately trying to snatch up the place. This causes the landlord to raise the rent, which our heroes cannot afford nor tolerate.
Fortunately, Brick has a job at a funeral home. He nabs an unclaimed dead body, and the four fake a Mob hit, shooting the dead man in the lobby of the hotel, attracting police attention, and thus lowering property value. (See? There’s a fun episode right there!)
Trouble is, the corpse was that of drug lord Louis Ventana (Manuel Estanillo), whose son Raul (Miguel Sandoval) thinks the “murder” is a threat from rival crime rings. Plus, the silent Mouth becomes not-so-silent when associating with hooker Ferris (Jennifer Tilly), who says she will stay quiet on one condition: that the foursome kill her step-mother (Lainie Kazan).
Oh, and meanwhile, Bobby has been looking for his long-lost daughter, but the P.I. he hired can’t find her. Turns out she’s a cop (played by Carrie-Anne Moss, from “The Matrix”), and she’s the one investigating the “murder” in the hotel lobby. (Wouldn’t being a cop make her extraordinarily EASY to find, especially for a private detective? Just asking.)
The “long-lost daughter” thing would have to be saved for a Very Special Episode, as it’s pretty maudlin and entirely unnecessary. The rest of the film has its bright spots — Raul Ventana’s frank admission that he’s a living cliche; the fact that Ferris works at a place called “Nasty McKnickers” — but is overall slight and unnoticeable. It’s a sunny, harmless film, and it reminds me of a trip to the dentist: I dreaded it going in, I rolled my eyes and gritted my teeth through most of it, but a day later, I thought, “Well, OK, that wasn’t so bad. The novocaine made my mouth numb in a fun, silly way, and there was a fascinating article in Reader’s Digest in the waiting room.”
C- (; )