There's nothing more tender, more melancholy, and more amusing than watching rock musicians age, which partly explains why we love the still ambulatory Rolling Stones, and why Still Crazy hits its mark. This ingratiating, easy-target British comedy it owes Spi¨al Tap a huge platter of tiny sandwiches in homage, even though director Brian Gibson (What's Love Got to Do With It) and screenwriters Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais (The Commitments) swear they didn't want to write a British Spi¨al Tap reunites the fictional band Strange Fruit, which broke up, with high histrionics, in 1977.
Now, 20 years later, the keyboard player (Stephen Rea), who stocks condom machines on the resort island of Ibiza, rounds up the group for one more stab at glory. The lead singer (the extraordinary Bill Nighy) lives a stoned, swanky life in a Sting-size mansion, pretending he's not a fossil; the rueful bass player-turned-roofer (Jimmy Nail) is a family man; the fat, flatulent drummer (Timothy Spall) dodges tax collectors. The boys argue, they act out, they rehash and mourn and romanticize the past as they rehearse, and they perform for young people who, in the end, accept the band as kind of cute, or cool, or at least funkily retro. (Juliet Aubrey plays the indispensable girl who runs things; Billy Connolly is the cynical roadie; Swedish actress Helena Bergström earns laughs as the lead singer's bossy, bourgeois second wife; multitalented Bruce Robinson coscreenwriter of In Dreams enters late as a crucial, missing band member.)
The ensemble acting is fun, generous, and gentle, and the music, in part by Foreigner's Mick Jones and Squeeze's Chris Difford, is as good as Strange Fruit ought to be, with classically grandiose '70s poetic sentiments. When the band hits its reunion climax, Still Crazy encourages frankly emotional tears. And why not: There's nothing more comforting than the sight of grizzled old guys rocking on while the rest of us buy a ticket to feel young. B+