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1 item from 1998

Film review: 'Still Crazy'

11 December 1998 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

It should come as no surprise that "Still Crazy" thematically falls somewhere between "The Commitments" and "This Is Spinal Tap", given that screenwriters Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais penned the former and honed their satirical chops as writers on "The Tracey Ullman Show".

But while the material -- about a quintessentially '70s British rock band called Strange Fruit that reunites two decades later for one more kick at the old can -- may not exactly be the freshest concept in town, sharp characterizations and a crack comic cast nonetheless make it an amusing diversion.

Ticket sales won't set any records, but Columbia should enjoy some modest domestic business, with stronger results overseas.

Finding little artistic fulfillment in his condom-dispenser concession, former Fruits keyboard player Tony Costello (Stephen Rea) gets the reunion ball rolling by tracking down his worse-for-wear bandmates with the help of Karen Knowles (Juliet Aubrey), their old PA and now a divorcee with a teenage daughter (Rachael Stirling).

The quest proves no easy feat: Bassist Les Wickes (Jimmy Nail) has eased into domestic bliss with a family and a roofing business; drummer Beano Baggot (Timothy Spall) works at a gardening nursery while fearing the wrath of the tax collector; pompous lead singer Ray Simms (Bill Nighy) lives over his head in a country mansion with his take-no-prisoners Swedish wife Astrid (Helena Bergstrom); and ace roadie Hughie (Billy Connolly) earns what he can in a street market.

Ultimately, the lure of past glory prevails, though plans for a full reunion are hampered by the discovery that former lead guitarist and acknowledged star of the group Brian Lovell (Bruce Robinson) appears to be dead. No matter, much younger guitarist Luke (Hans Matheson) is brought in, adding a little wrinkle-free incentive for a new generation of potential Fruits fans.

Landing a bus left over from an old INXS tour, the band hits the road, bringing along all the requisite excess baggage -- old feuds, bruised egos, etc. They work their way back up again through scary Holland dives with an eye toward a triumphant reunion concert at the Wisbech rock festival some 20 years after a freak electrical storm at that very venue effectively splintered the mighty Fruits.

Blessed with terrific comic timing and some masterful, scene-stealing turns by Nighy's Ted Nugent-meets-Ted Baxter lead singer Simms and Bergstrom as his domineering better half, "Still Crazy"'s motley crew of a cast hits all the right notes. And director Gibson -- no stranger to choreographing musical performances having done "What's Love Got to Do With It" and "The Josephine Baker Story" -- keeps the tempo amiably upbeat, even as the Clement/La Frenais script follows a fairly generic path.

Musically, the picture is right on the money, with Foreigner's Mick Jones and the Electric Light Orchestra's Jeff Lynne contributing some pitch-perfect power ballads that are as earnestly overblown as all that '70s hair. Hats off also to costume designer Caroline Harris for the expert fur-and-sequins glam work.


Sony Pictures Releasing

A Columbia Pictures presentation

with the participation of the Greenlight Fund

A Marmot Tandy production

A Brian Gibson film

Director: Brian Gibson

Screenwriters: Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais

Producer: Andrea Marmot

Executive producers: Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais

Director of photography: Ashley Rowe

Production designer: Max Gottlieb

Editor: Peter Boyle

Costume designer: Caroline Harris

Music: Clive Langer

Music supervisors: Tarquin Gotch and Steve Dagger

Casting: Gail Stevens



Tony Costello: Stephen Rea

Hughie: Billy Connolly

Les Wickes: Jimmy Nail

Beano Baggot: Timothy Spall

Ray Simms: Bill Nighy

Karen Knowles: Juliet Aubrey

Astrid Simms: Helena Bergstrom

Brian Lovell: Bruce Robinson

Luke Shand: Hans Matheson

Clare Knowles: Rachael Stirling

Running time -- 97 minutes

MPAA rating: R


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