Picks and Pans Review: The Ref

updated 03/21/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/21/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

Judy Davis, Kevin Spacey, Denis Leary, Glynis Johns

This is a Disney-organization movie in which the hero not only tells his mother to shut up, he tells her, "Shut the f—k up!" That whirring sound we hear is Uncle Walt revolving in his vault.

This frantic, vulgar comedy relies pathetically on F-word "humor" and the snarly, all-attitude style of standup comic-pitchman Leary. Leary plays an inept burglar who kidnaps Davis and Spacey. Leary ends up arbitrating their arguments because they bicker so much—with each other, their son (Robert Steinmiller Jr.) and relatives, of whom the saddest sight is the once-elegant Johns as Spacey's mother.

The reliably obnoxious Leary drains all the potential playfulness from his role, leaving pros Davis and Spacey the burden of carrying him through the film, which they do, using witty body language and their expressive faces. While director Ted Demme (the nephew of director Jonathan Demme) seems to be trying to impose a Home Alone tone, he only succeeds in lending an air of desperation, with lame subplots blundering into the picture. (R)

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