Still Crazy

***

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

This has been done before, and so much better, in John Byrne's Tutti Frutti, the old rockers on the road scenario, the one that won't fade away. Nostalgia bands proliferate, like sharks in custard, product of reunion gigs that activate a blood rush after decades of not adapting. Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais are legends of British sitcom (The Likely Lads, Porridge, Auf Weidersehen, Pet). They moved to California and wrote best-be-forgotten screenplays, with the exception of Alan Parker's The Commitments, which some critics noted was more of a package than Roddy Doyle's original novel. Still Crazy began as an idea for a TV series, but was sidelined by movie producer, Amanda Marmot. As a result, it suffers from identifiable type syndrome.

Strange Fruit was an exciting rock band that blew itself apart at the Wisbech Festival, during a thunderstorm, in 1977. The usual malfunctions contributed - drugs, egos, jealousy, violence. Twenty years later, their songwriter and inspirational lead, Brian, has gone through the Syd Barrett/Peter Green loony bin phase and disappeared. The others are doing crap jobs and hating it. Lead singer, Ray (Bill Nighy) is the only one hanging onto the rock'n'roll lifestyle, making self-indulgent, non-selling albums from his back-of-the-stables studio, living in a stately home, which he can't afford, with tough bitch ex-groupie-now-wife, Astrid (Helena Bergstrom).

Keyboard player, Tony (Stephen Rea), scratching a living in the condom trade on Ibiza, persuades Karen (Juliet Aubrey), the band's PA in the old days, to quit her job in hotel public relations and help pull the lads together for a reunion gig at Wisbech '97. The bassist, Les (Jimmy Nail), is married with kids and runs his own roofing business up north. The drummer, Beano (Timothy Small), works for a garden centre and lives in a caravan at the back of his mum's house and is paranoid about the tax police. To make up for the missing-presumed-dead Brian, they hire Luke (Hans Matheson), young enough to be one of their sons, and entice loyal Scots roadie, Hughie (Billy Connolly), to be the tour's logistics manager, or sparks.

Having collected this gaggle of middle-aged geese, what next? Tour low grade European venues - clubs, pubs, parked boats - and make a big din. Only Ray (Nighy enjoys the spiritual flatulence of this vain fool so much he almost ODs on the sound of his own voice) and Karen (Aubrey conveys the depth of a woman who had a life once) are given the opportunity to make something of their roles. The others are caricatured and underdeveloped. Rea plays Droopy again. Nail lurks on the edge of things. Spall skuttles about like a rodent. Connolly is wasted and Bergstrom shouts a lot. Matheson has all the girls after him, which means he doesn't have to act. The music gets better. By the end, Strange Fruit is a considerable improvement on Aerosmith lookalike bands, but no challenge to The Majestics.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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Still Crazy packshot
A group of middle-aged rockers hit the road again.
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Director: Brian Gibson

Writer: Dick Clement, Ian La Frenais

Starring: Stephen Rea, Billy Connolly, Jimmy Nail, Timothy Spall, Bill Nighy, Juliet Aubrey, Helena Bergström, Bruce Robinson, Hans Matheson, Rachael Stirling, Phil Daniels

Year: 1998

Runtime: 95 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK

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