Reviewed by Colin Jacobson

Title: The Crew (2000)
Studio Line: Touchstone - It may be artificial, but it's still their turf.

Loaded with laughs, The Crew features Academy Award winner Richard Dreyfuss (Mr. Holland's Opus) and Burt Reynolds (Mystery, Alaska) in a sidesplitting story about a set of golden-year goodfellas fighting to protect their last piece of turf! Back in the days when mobsters were larger than life, none lived bigger than Bobby (Dreyfuss), "Bats" (Reynolds), "The Brick" (Dan Hedaya, Shaft) and "Mouth" (Seymour Cassel, Rushmore). But now well into retirement, the old crew find themselves suddenly facing eviction from their run-down Miami Beach hotel - The Raj Mahal. That's when they decided there's only one thing left to do - turn back the clock and pull one last "hit" in order to save their home! As their wacky plot unfolds, you'll happily laugh along when these grandfatherly gangsters set off a hilarious chain of events that quickly spins outrageously out of control.

Director: Michael Dinner
Cast: Richard Dreyfuss, Burt Reynolds, Dan Hedaya, Seymour Cassel, Carrie-Anne Moss, Jennifer Tilly
Box Office: Budget: $23 million. Opening Weekend: $4.051 million (1510 screens). Gross: $13.019 million.
DVD: Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9; audio English DD 5.1; subtitles none; single sided - dual layered; 32 chapters; rated PG-13; 88 min.; $32.99; street date 3/13/01.
Supplements: Action Overload; Production Featurettes; Cast Biographies; Theatrical Trailer.
Purchase: DVD | Music soundtrack - Various Artists

Picture/Sound/Extras: A-/B+/D+

Perhaps it sounded like a good idea at the time. Take liberal doses of GoodFellas and Elmore Leonard stories like Out of Sight and mix them into a package that features one unusual, “high concept” twist: the protagonists are all old dudes! That was apparently the process behind The Crew, a misguided and muddled comedy that fell almost completely flat.

At the start of the film, we see the high-life lived by a gang of young mobsters in the mid-Sixties. They get whatever they want and feel like the fun will never stop. Flash to the present, where the fun has taken a backseat to Metamucil and bingo. Relocated to southern Florida, Bobby (Richard Dreyfuss), “Bats” (Burt Reynolds), “The Brick” (Dan Hedaya) and “Mouth” (Seymour Cassel) seem destined to finish their golden years watching the world as it passes by them. To make matters worse, their apartment building has been infested by well-off young hardbodies who want to take advantage of its primo Miami Beach location.

Threatened with eviction, the boys come out of retirement and stage a hit to scare off the interlopers. It works, but it succeeds too well as their behavior attracts the attention of a powerful drug lord named Raul Ventana (Miguel Sandoval). Plenty others get involved in their adventures as well, including Bobby’s long-lost daughter Olivia (Carrie-Anne Moss), who’s now a detective on the murder case.

Sure, this all sounds like it might be fun, especially when one considers the high-powered talent involved. However, plenty of movies have appeared to have a lot of potential but ultimately squandered it, and into that category falls The Crew. Little about this production works, primarily because none of the actors ever seem to really connect with the material. Dreyfuss provides some moderately droll notes, but Reynolds was a virtual non-entity; though he can be a powerful actor, he fades into the background here. Cassel and Hedaya function a little better, but the story mainly focuses on Bobby, so the others are left as little more than comedic devices.

Actually, most of the cast seemed to exist for no reason other than to provide occasional diversions. Sure, many of them offer parts that further the plot, but since the whole thing seems so asinine anyway, I really didn’t care much about them. The whole thing feels like a lot of effort with little payoff in the end.

Director Michael Dinner hadn’t helmed anything other than TV movies since 1988, when he made Hot to Trot, a dud that starred Bob Goldthwait. I haven’t seen that one for a while, so I don’t know if it’s as bad as The Crew, but a look down his résumé didn’t exactly inspire confidence in his abilities; Dinner also directed lame teen comedy Heaven Help Us and - heaven help him - some episodes of the late Nineties revival of Fantasy Island. The best thing to Dinner’s credit was his stint on The Wonder Years; that wasn’t a great show, but it looks terrific compared to the rest of his credits.

Those sitcom credentials really shine through during The Crew, as Dinner loads the film with cheap laughs and tacky production values. Writer Barry Fanaro also shows many TV programs in his past, which makes this piece even more heavily rooted in sitcom themes. Too many of the gags directly recall GoodFellas, but rather than provoke laughter from the alterations, these scenes just made me miss the infinitely-superior Scorsese film. Ultimately, The Crew was a sad flick to watch, as I hate to see talent wasted. Quite a lot of good people go down the drain in this lackluster and inane comedy.

The DVD:

The Crew appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Although the picture wasn’t flawless, it nonetheless looked quite good, as the film consistently provided a solid image.

Sharpness seemed excellent. From start to finish, the movie appeared crisp and well-defined, without a hint of softness to be found. All in all, the picture was quite accurate and distinct. Some minor examples of moiré effects and jagged edges cropped up at times, but these were modest and didn’t cause any significant problems. Print flaws also reared their ugly heads at times, but they weren’t heavy. At various points during the film, I saw some speckles and grit, but otherwise the image seemed clean.

As befits the southern Florida setting, colors looked wonderfully lively and vibrant. The movie offered a broad palette with a wide variety of vivid hues, and the DVD made them appear rich and bold, with no signs of bleeding, noise, or other problems. Black levels also seemed deep and dense, and shadow detail was appropriately thick but not excessively opaque. Ultimately, without the minor print flaws, this would have been an absolutely stellar picture. As it stands, the image merited a very strong “A-“.

Also good was the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of The Crew. As one might expect from this sort of comedy, the soundfield largely stuck to the forward channels, which displayed a fairly broad and engaging image. Sounds were placed appropriately within the spectrum, and they moved acceptably well across the speakers. The surrounds usually concentrated mainly on reinforcement of the music and effects, but since The Crew featured some minor action pieces, we also got fairly nice discrete audio from the rears during appropriate scenes. For example, gunfights and explosions came to life nicely, and as a whole, the mix fit the material well.

Audio quality largely seemed fine, with only a few exceptions. Dialogue usually sounded natural and distinct. Some shouted lines came across as a little edgy, but those were rare occasions, and the speech lacked any problems related to intelligibility. Effects appeared crisp and acceptably dynamic, and they showed no signs of distortion. Music was bright and rich, and though the low end was never tremendously deep, bass response seemed fairly positive. Ultimately, the mix for The Crew was pretty solid.

Less scintillating are the supplements found on this DVD. The main attraction is an eight minute and five second featurette called “Working The Crew”. A combination of cast and performer interviews, shots from the set, and film clips to create a glorified trailer. It’s not a charmless piece as it offers some basic information about the film, but there’s not much depth here. The emphasis is clearly on promotion, but it’s still a watchable little piece.

Note that the DVD’s case states that the disc will include production featurettes. That’s not the case, “Working The Crew” is the only such program to be found. In addition to it, we get another example of the odd Action Overload genre. As also seen on other Buena Vista DVDs such as Coyote Ugly and Gone In Sixty Seconds, this bizarre piece combines a slew of “highlights” into one 65 second bit. It seems kind of pointless to me, but it exists nonetheless.

Finally, we get decent Cast Biographies for eight of the actors, and the film’s theatrical trailer appears as well. In the “Sneak Peeks” area - and also at the start of the DVD - are two additional ads: we find promos for Sweet Revenge and Disney’s The Kid.

As a film, The Crew wastes a lot of talent and also stole 88 minutes of my life. That may not be too much time, but I’m not getting any younger, and I hate to think that those precious minutes were devoted to such an unentertaining and bland enterprise. Although it boasts a solid cast, the movie does little with them to show off their abilities and it ultimately collapses under a slew of sitcom themes. The DVD offers very good picture and sound but it skimps on extras. Unless you just can’t resist a tepid combination of Grumpy Old Men and GoodFellas, skip The Crew.

Equipment: Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.
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