You've most likely seen The Hustle
before. That's because this is the third time Hollywood has made the movie. The first time was in 1964, with Marlon Brando and David Niven, and it was called Bedtime Story
. Then, in 1988, we got a remake with Steve Martin and Michael Caine called Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
. The 88 movie was pretty popular, and even inspired a successful Broadway musical, so technically this marks the fourth telling of the story.
Now we have this most recent version, which plays like old material being performed by actors who don't know how to make it work. This is a labored comedy that slavishly recreates scenes from the earlier movies, only without the comedic timing and energy. Just like before, the movie tells the story of two professional con artists who are competing with each other to seduce and steal from an ignorant tourist flashing around a lot of cash. Only this time, the movie has been gender flipped. The cons are women this time, and are played by Rebel Wilson and Anne Hathaway. Wilson can be very funny, and proved she could carry a comedy on her own just a few months ago with Isn't It Romantic
. Here, she's left floundering as she tries to put a fresh edge on material that Martin did better a little over 30 years ago. As for Hathaway, she too can be funny, but here walks around with her nose up in the air, and basically acts like she's doing a perfume commercial. After Serenity
and now this, she's having a tough year.
The mark that the two cons are competing for has also been flipped. This time, it's a naive and gullible young tech billionaire (Alex Sharp) who comes across as having more money than common sense. The way that the women try to go after this guy and his bank account will seem very familiar to anyone who has seen the other versions. Heck, aside from a few small differences, this is almost the exact same movie as before, only without the energy. So, the obvious question becomes why do it again? None of the actors bring anything new to the material, and the movie mostly seems to be trying desperately to recreate the 1988 remake. If you've seen Scoundrels
, you no doubt remember the scene where Steve Martin had to pass himself off as Caine's idiot brother, who was forced to have a cork on the end of his fork at the dinner table, so he wouldn't hurt himself with it. Martin milked that performance and the scene itself to its fullest, providing some of the better broad and physical comedy of his career.
Here, Wilson does something very similar, only her portrayal is nowhere near as funny or as full tilt. She's just not trying hard enough. She also recreates the scene where she asks to go to the bathroom while at the dinner table, but the payoff is nowhere near as good. Martin used his face and physical comedy for the gag. Wilson does something much cruder, and nowhere near as memorable. Hathaway has been given the "straight" role of the two leads, and doesn't get to stand out much. That didn't stop Caine in the last remake we got. He managed to get some laughs when he passed himself off as a German doctor with some unorthodox methods. Here, Hathaway does almost the exact same bit, but she gets no laughs, because again, she's just not as invested in it.
just plays out like an inferior version of a classic story. All the bits and pieces that you liked before are there, but they don't generate the same good will. It's not that I think the earlier versions of this story are sacred and just should not have been touched. It's just that this new version is no damn good.