In Brief: A bad redo of the equally so-so 1988 film Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.
Unlike a lot of critics, my policy has always been to know next to nothing about a movie before doing a review. I want zero information and influence so the review will be untainted. As I’m watching The Hustle, I’m thinking, “Hey, this is Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.”
The 1988 flick starred Michael Caine and Steve Martin as con artists. One suave and successful, and the other scrambling for a buck and buffoonish. The Hustle is same movie slightly rewritten to make the con artists ladies. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels was written by Stanley Shapiro, Dale Launer (My Cousin Vinny) and by TV’s The Beverly Hillbillies creator Paul Henning.
It was a redo 1964’s Bedtime Story that starred Marlon Brando and David Niven.
Shapiro, Launer and Henning get credit for writing the screenplay along with Jac Schaeffer (Olaf’s Frozen Adventure) who changed it a bit and gave it the female protagonist update.
Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson star. Hathaway is beautiful, upper class, rich and wanting to get richer. Wilson is not bad at the game but she’s a bit rough around the edges. They get along about as well as oil and water, and end up making a bet as to who can score first on a mark.
That mark is Alex Sharp’s Thomas. He’s the inventor of a popular phone and computer application. Whoever gets $500,000 from him first wins the bet.
Hathaway and Wilson have great chemistry and play well off of each other. Though Wilson is more known for comedy, Hathaway has much better comedy timing. Being drop dead gorgeous, and with one of the best deadpan deliveries working today, Hathaway is perfectly cast in the Michael Caine role.
Wilson’s best asset is that she’s impossible not to love. I’m a big fan and always have been. Her second best asset — like most great comedians — is that rare ability to make you cry as well as laugh.
Unfortunately, Schaeffer’s third-time-is-not-the-charm script rework doesn’t let her use that one.
It would have helped. What she is forced to use in The Hustle is her biggest negative. Wilson sometimes relies too much on stammering lines and blathering to sell a comedy line or bit.
For The Hustle Wilson dips too often into that well.
That may not be her fault. During most of The Hustle you, too, are being hustled. Even if you don’t recognize it as Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, this is as predictable as predictable con movies get. There are a few, humorous pieces scattered through this just over 90-minute redo. And — to be fair — when it’s funny, it will make you laugh out loud.
There just isn’t enough funny.
Director: Chris Addison
Stars: Anne Hathaway, Rebel Wilson, Tim Blake Nelson, Alex Sharp, Ingrid Oliver, Dean Norris
Remakes and redos often fail because they’re remakes and redos of movies or TV shows that ought not have been done in the first place. That’s the case with The Hustle. In spite of a terrific cast, this one is a bomb. Give if a not-so-friendly Friday Flick rating of 2 on the 0 to 5 scale.
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Gary Wolcott has been reviewing movies on radio, television and newspaper since 1990. He believes — and this is an estimate only — that he’s seen something close to 10,000 movies in his lifetime. Gary is a lifelong fan of films and catches a couple of hundred movies a year. He believes movies ought to be seen on the big screen and not on the small screen in your living room or family room. While he loves movies, he also says reviewing film can be a real sacrifice and that he sees many movies so you don’t have to.
He is one of KXL 101.1 FM’s film critics and joined the news staff in 2014. Gary is also the film critic for Tri-Cities, Washington’s Tri-City Herald.