Michael Caine once revealed that he accepts film offers based on the shooting locations, making one wonder why he wasn't included in the cast of ONCE UPON A CRIME, a film where producer cum travel agent Dino DeLaurentiis provided what can be assumed were lovely accommodations in Monte
Carlo. For filmgoers stuck viewing the result, their own vacation begins during the walk up the aisle and out of the theater.
In Rome, two bickering Americans, Phoebe and Julian Peters (Sean Young and Richard Lewis), find a missing dachshund and travel from Rome to Monte Carlo to collect a $5,000 reward offered for the dog's return. When they arrive in Monte Carlo, they discover the dog's murdered owner. Through a series
of confused circumstances, they find themselves accused of murdering the owner, and a few other crackpot Americans--a compulsive gambler, Augie Morosco (John Candy), and a gauche husband and wife from Newark, Neil and Marilyn Schwary (James Belushi and Cybill Shepherd)--also find themselves
implicated in the crime. Bringing this group together is Inspector Bonnard (Giancarlo Giannini), who disconcertingly announces that the killers are the maid and the butler. Bonnard frees the group, lecturing them that "all your troubles came from distrust and fear." As a coda, it is revealed that
the dachshund has inherited the owner's millions and the final shot shows gigolo Alfonso de la Pena (George Hamilton, who pops up throughout the film) romancing the dog.
Eugene Levy, late of "Second City TV" fame, makes his feature directorial debut with ONCE UPON A CRIME and clearly the golden days of "SCTV" are over. Levy directs with a club, keeping the actors screaming and hopping as if in the throes of a caffeine overdose. Of particular embarrassment is a
scene where Belushi and Candy, overcome with gambling fever, go berserk inside a Monte Carlo casino and one in which Belushi and Shepherd have to hide carry-on luggage containing a chopped up corpse from a train conductor. Levy can't seem to tell if something is funny or not and keeps up the
sledgehammer intensity throughout every scene, comic subtlety and timing abandoned in a desperate attempt for laughs--even pained ones.
The screenplay, astonishingly credited to seven screenwriters (two of whom, Charles Shyer and Nancy Meyers, were responsible for BABY BOOM and the 1991 remake of FATHER OF THE BRIDE), is so unstructured and pointless that it takes almost an hour before the four main characters even get to meet
each other--and CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS this isn't. Storylines are discarded like bon-bon wrappers. First ONCE UPON A CRIME is a caper movie. Then a comedy murder-mystery. Then nothing. Bonnard's solution to the murder is so abrupt and from so far afield that it seems more likely that the film had
to end because Levy was running out of film stock.
The casting is like the pick of the Holywood unemployment line. Young and Lewis play their parts as if on a unpleasant blind date. Trying to act like a third-string Diane Keaton and Woody Allen, they are more reminiscent of Alan Carney and Wally Brown of ZOMBIES ON BROADWAY. In other roles, John
Candy and James Belushi have never been more grating and repellent. The only survivor of the carnage is Giancarlo Giannini, whose bored and weary glances of contempt at the collection of third bananas mirror the feelings of the movie audience.
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- Released: 1992
- Rating: PG
- Review: Michael Caine once revealed that he accepts film offers based on the shooting locations, making one wonder why he wasn't included in the cast of ONCE UPON A CRIME, a film where producer cum travel agent Dino DeLaurentiis provided what can be assumed were l… (more)