Picks and Pans Review: Once Upon a Crime

updated 03/23/1992 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/23/1992 AT 01:00 AM EST

John Candy, James Belushi, Richard Lewis, Cybill Shepherd, Sean Young

It's a bad idea for supposedly comic cinematic action to swirl around a canine. Too often, the movie in question is a dog—in the case of Once upon a Crime, a dog with fleas. Jilted in Rome, Young is befriended by a dachshund named Napoleon and irritated by an unemployed actor, Lewis. But when the two learn that Napoleon is the prize pooch of a Monte Carlo grande dame, they join forces to return the dachshund and collect a reward, only to be implicated in the dowager's murder.

Other suspects include George Hamilton (in his perma-tan and with Transylvanian accent) and Belushi and Shepherd, an ill-matched couple on a vacation, as well as Candy, a compulsive gambler. The performers marooned in this landlocked Love Boat try to camouflage the dreary doings by near hysterical emoting, to the accompaniment of widened eyes and flailing arms. "My, my, what insouciance," says a man admiring Shepherd's spunk at the roulette table. "It's the dress," she replies. "It shows everything." Once upon a Crime is made intermittently bearable by the presence of Candy, who can wring a laugh out of the biggest wet noodle of a script. "I plan to hold your passport for another 48 hours," police inspector Giancarlo Giannini tells him. "Keep it," says Candy breezily. "I have lots." (PG)

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