Too many crooks spoil "The Crew," and I'm not talking about the "grumpy old mobsters" played by Richard Dreyfuss, Burt Reynolds, Dan Hedaya and Seymour Cassel in this withering wiseguy comedy.
I'm talking about the throng of sardine-packed subplots that rob these good actors of all their quality screen time.
This facetious foursome play mobsters retired to South Florida who wind up in the middle of a drug war by trying to keep the run-down hotel they live in from going condo in the wake of all the Porsche-driving 20-somethings moving to town.
You see, they steal a body from the morgue and make it look like the guy was shot in their lobby, thus driving down property values. But the cadaver they swiped had been the father of a local cocaine kingpin who now thinks his papa's been taken out in a hit.
It's a passable sitcom setup, the likes of which this cast could run with, creating a quality comedy of errors. But just wait, we're no where near done yet:
Tony "Mouth" Donato (Cassel), the silent but deadly ex-mobster, ironically spills the beans to a stripper he's shagging (the appropriately stacked and squeaky Jennifer Tilly) and she uses the information to blackmail the boys into whacking her kvetching stepmom (Lainie Kazan). However, they discover they don't have that killer instinct anymore, so they fake her death, putting a store-bought skeleton in her bed and setting her mansion on fire.
As bad luck would have it, she lives next door to the drug lord with the dead daddy (the forever-typecast Miguel Sandoval), and his house goes up in flames too, escalating his ire and bloodlust.
(Deep breath now...)
Kidnapped but not dead, the gaudy, motor-mouthed stepmom becomes a hostage housemarm to the mobsters, taking a shine to Mouth the ladies man, while the boys try to figure a way out of this mess.
(Guess what? We're not done yet...)
Meanwhile, Dreyfuss discovers the sexy detective (Carrie-Anne Moss) working the murders they've staged is his long-lost daughter. But he's just not sure how to tell her (choking back tears now) because he abandon her and her mother when she was 5.
And to add another fold to the movie's wrinkly skin, her ex-boyfriend (Jeremy Piven), an undercover narcotics cop, is secretly working for the kingpin -- who subsequently gets an inkling of the old coot/caper connection and kidnaps the stripper, the stepmom, the daughter cop, the crooked cop and Mouth to try to straighten out just what the hell is going on.
Now I ask you, where's the comedy supposed to fit in to all this? The movie's only 88 minutes long.
Even though it's doomed from the beginning by clichés and design-by-committee scripting, early on "The Crew" gets in a reel's worth of Grade-B establishing laughs. Hedaya has become a funeral home makeup artist who gets a little too excited about his work. Reynolds' short fuse and lack of marketable job skills has seen him "fired from every Burger King in Dade county." Narrating all this is Dreyfuss, who gets a few giggles just from his nasal delivery of his "fuggetaboutit" dialogue.
The old guy gags are pretty standard stuff (playing bingo, lining up for free soup day at the dumpy local diner) and as the plot gets more convoluted, what little creativity there is goes into a tailspin so steep that director Michael Dinner (whose last film credit is that Bobcat Goldthwait talking horse movie "Hot to Trot") doesn't even try to pull out of it. After setting up a big rescue scene by calling in favors from retired gangsters all over the panhandle, the picture literally jumps right over the climax, leaving loose ends flapping around like the upper arms of the crew's bingo buddies.
Given a chance to really do something with these characters, Dreyfuss, Reynolds, Hedaya and Cassel could have shined in such potentially clever roles. But "The Crew" came from a script that was ready for the retirement home itself.
The movie's only standout is the lanky, lovely Moss, who brings an unspoken depth to Dreyfuss' detective daughter. Although I probably noticed only because the part is such a huge departure from her role as Trinity in "The Matrix," something that will probably follow her the rest of her life.