This new ensemble geezer comedy superficially resembles “Space Cowboys” in that it’s about four over-the-hill gents who return to their old line of work. In the present case, however, the fellows are elderly gangsters rather than would-be astronauts, and unlike Clint Eastwood’s picture, which merged sly wit and action-adventure to excellent effect, “The Crew” is just an elongated version of a bad TV sitcom, wedding geriatric slapstick and schmaltz in a tale of expatriate New Jersey wiseguys who plot to rescue their Miami Beach retirement hotel from creeping gentrification by staging a phony mob murder in its lobby. Before long, the long-in-the-tooth dudes find themselves unwittingly involved in a war among rival drug dealers and a planned rubout-turned-kidnapping. As if this weren’t enough, one of the group is also searching for his long-lost daughter, and only if you’ve never seen a movie before will you be surprised by the job she turns out to have.
We’re obviously intended to find the four ex-gangsters a bunch of charming old codgers and their circumstances hilarious, but because of the crushingly obvious writing, sledgehammer direction and overemphatic acting, the boys are merely grating, and the complications in which they’re ensnared messily unfunny. Richard Dreyfuss proves far less effective than Tommy Lee Jones did at playing much older than his years (he’s only 52, but is supposed to be nearing seventy), and, as in all his recent flicks, he’s abandoned the faintest hint of subtlety. Burt Reynolds shows even less restraint, grimacing and scowling like a purebred ham. Dan Hedaya comes across better, not simply because he’s a more adept farceur (though he is), but because next to Dreyfuss and Reynolds, he actually underplays a bit. Seymour Cassell is probably the most fortunate of all, since his character speaks very little, so that he’s saddled with fewer of the lousy lines provided by Barry Fanaro. Overwrought mugging extends into the supporting ranks, too, as one might expect when the cast includes such aggressive types as Jennifer Tilly (as a hooker), Lainie Kazan (as a restaurant owner), and Jeremy Piven (as a smarmy cop). Miguel Sandoval gets some cheap laughs playing a frustrated gang kingpin, but the whole notion of using drug smuggling as the basis for old-fart humor is pretty tasteless. (Some of the jokes about death and old age are also way over the line for such mass-market material.)
Early on in “The Crew,” whose mere 88 minutes seem to take an eternity to unspool, Dreyfuss says of his seedy hotel accommodations (which he’s nevertheless desperate to hold onto), “Hell must be like this room.” Actually, it’s probably more akin to this staggeringly inept movie.