- The Washington Times - Friday, August 25, 2000

''The Crew" botches the pretext that works for "Space Cowboys," becoming a painfully facetious cropper while attempting to celebrate a comeback quartet of old-timers. Though it's easier to respect test pilots in retirement than mobsters in retirement, what ails "The Crew" isn't entirely traceable to a bogus fondness for elderly crooks whose thuggish credentials remain fundamentally disreputable.

The sixtysomething wise guys Richard Dreyfuss, Burt Reynolds, Dan Hedaya and Seymour Cassel share an apartment at a shabby but tranquil hotel, the Raj Mahal, on Miami's South Beach.

Targeted for demolition and costly replacement by the management, this crumbling haven means enough to the rickety title characters to justify sabotage. They stage a mock homicide to distract the improvers, then discover that they accidentally have aroused a Latin drug lord, played by Miguel Sandoval, whose slow-burn routine is the only reliable comic specialty in the show.

An arson caper follows the phony murder and results in a sequence of undeniably mind-boggling novelty a rat is exploited as the incredible, scampering agent of destruction at adjacent mansions. Curiously, Lainie Kazan becomes a kind of honorary fifth crew member in the aftermath of this overblown calamity.

Mr. Dreyfuss, whose character is chosen to narrate the rambling wreckage of a plot, also is burdened with a mawkish subplot: A long-lost daughter is revealed to be a police officer, impersonated with scant chance of warmth by Carrie-Anne Moss, the frozen-faced femme fatale matched with Keanu Reeves in "The Matrix." Jennifer Tilly, a delightful playmate for Mr. Dreyfuss a decade ago in "Let it Ride," looks as if her career ended with proper warning while cast as a bimbo in "The Crew."

Jeremy Piven has a curiously abject role as the police colleague whose lack of fidelity allegedly has frosted Miss Moss. He is obliged to suck her toes in one scene and endure her karate kicks in another. Somehow, he symbolizes the spectator who might end up paying full admission price for "The Crew."

The principals are credited with part-time jobs that tend to be forgotten after expendable sight gags. Mr. Reynolds, the most violent codger, works at a Burger King. Mr. Cassel is a ballroom-dance partner at a local park. Mr. Dreyfuss drives a tour van, which ought to provide the movie with more opportunities and mobility than the filmmakers recognize. Mr. Hedaya applies cosmetic touch-ups to cadavers, a skill that comes in handy for the murder hoax. It's a pity no one thought of canvassing the Raj for a script doctor in retirement.

There is one fleeting grace note: the sound of Dean Martin on the soundtrack. The selection, "Until the Real Thing Comes Along," also may be interpreted as a melodic rebuke to the movie, a synthetic thing of the feeblest manufacture.

One and 1/2 out of four stars

TITLE: "The Crew"

RATING: PG-13 (Occasional graphic violence in a mostly farcical context; occasional comic and sexual vulgarity; fleeting nudity and allusions to drugs)

CREDITS: Directed by Michael Dinner. Written by Barry Fanaro.

RUNNING TIME: 88 minutes

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