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By Pete Vonder Haar | November 3, 2003

As we grow older, assuming we make it that far, friendships inevitably change: friends get married, or move away, or have a bunch of annoying children. Most of us cope with this through the wonders of e-mail and the occasional face-to-face interaction, but not so Anthony Valentine (John Vitali). Anthony has grown up with the same group of guys since their days as tormented Catholic school kids in Philadelphia, and he worries that they’re finally starting to grow apart. After a night out with his buddies running over traffic signs and knocking the door off a Cadillac, Anthony and company end up in jail. He has a sit down with the gruff, yet sensitive police sergeant (veteran actor Tony Devon) who laments Anthony’s inability to make anything of himself. After a bit of soul-searching, Anthony decides the best way to find his purpose and keep his friends together is to form a dek hockey team. Thus is “The Demo Crew” formed.
(Dek hockey, for those scratching their heads, is hockey played with tennis shoes on a big plastic rink. As a former ice hockey player, it looks a lot like lacrosse with pucks to me, but I’m willing to forgive the group’s inability to skate for the sake of the bigger picture.)
Naturally, the guys suck pretty hard early on. As the season wears on and the losses mount, several members of the Crew drop out of playing. Losing isn’t much fun after all, but at least they could’ve come up with some better excuses. No one seems to have work or family obligations, they just have “stuff to do.” Anthony’s frustration grows, which becomes more understandable when we learn what a tool his father is, and what an apparently piss-poor childhood athlete he was.
Admittedly, Little League can be a harsh mistress. I sucked at it too, but somehow I managed not to dwell on it into my thirties like Anthony.
Anyway, just when things are looking their worst, Anthony gets in a car wreck and dies. At least, that’s what all his friends and family think. Fortunately for him, he was thrown clear of the wreck (I sense a reprimand from the NTSB coming). Unfortunately, he ended up with amnesia, a condition that has only enhanced Anthony’s sense of depression and melancholy.
Yeah, I know…amnesia? Seems a bit soap opera-ish, especially given the relative skill with which the first half of the movie was directed. What’s worse, Anthony is declared dead and given a funeral, even when his brother the firefighter admits that they never found his body.
Rather than look for their alleged best friend, the Demo Crew continue their hockey league play without him. Unsurprisingly, they soldier on with a renewed sense of purpose and start winning games. Meanwhile, Anthony – now living with his doctor – starts doing good deeds; like throwing water on an inconsiderate smoker in a restaurant and threatening a guy who parked illegally in a handicapped space. He’s like Captain Chaos with more testosterone. And without the stupid headscarf.
The Crew makes it to the finals, and Anthony – newly reunited with his memory – must decide whether or not to reveal himself to his friends and family again. Will he realize his dream of hoisting that championship trophy? Does he end up shaving his amazingly long hair and beard (seriously, the guy went from clean-cut to Jesus in about a month and a half)? Should you care?
“The Demo Crew” is a good looking film. Producer/writer/director Vitali apparently went through some serious hurdles getting his movie made, but the finished product works, for the most part (I was also impressed by his vehicle budget for the film, as you don’t see many cars blown up in low-budget indies). Some of the acting and dialogue leave a bit to be desired, and the whole amnesia angle could’ve been done in a more realistic fashion, or abandoned entirely. Still, for a first feature “The Demo Crew” is a decent little flick.

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