Movie review: ‘The Hustle’ will bamboozle you at the box office – Entertainment – LA Junta Tribune – La Junta, CO

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If you’ve seen “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” the silly, but funny 1988 film about a couple of con men – played by Steve Martin and Michael Caine – bilking women out of their money on the French Riviera, there’s no need to see “The Hustle,” a film about two con women – played by Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson – bilking men out of their money on the French Riviera.

In these days of Hollywood remakery, it’s yet another example of a do-over of something that was perfectly fine (for what it was) in the first place, but now replacing men with women in the same roles, in the same story. It didn’t work with “Ghostbusters.” It didn’t work with “Ocean’s 8.” It sure doesn’t work here.

But it does begin with a pleasant surprise. The animated opening credits are reminiscent of the silly, funny, and always inventive ones that were featured in the old “Pink Panther” films. Watching them now, my hopes were high.

There was Rebel Wilson, as comically self-deprecating an actress as we’ve got on the screen these days. And as brave as she is for that, she’s also unafraid to fill her performances with slapstick pratfalls. Put her next to doe-eyed, ever slinky Anne Hathaway, who has also done well – albeit to a lesser degree – with comic roles, and you’ve got a wonderfully mismatched pair of main characters that it could be a lot of fun to spend time with.

But it’s not.

There are fabulous, photogenic locations in the film, which purportedly takes place on the French Riviera (“Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” was shot around the south of France, but “The Hustle” uses the coastline of Spain), and there’s costume design that will make fashionistas drool. But the script, which is credited to four people, three of whom wrote “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” two of whom couldn’t do anything about this because they’re no longer with us, is crass and crude and features shamelessly over-the-top humor performed in a shamelessly over-the-top manner.

This is Rebel Wilson territory, but even Hathaway gets into the act. Much of the physical side of what she does here must have been at least slightly embarrassing for her.

The plot – if you haven’t seen that earlier film – involves these two women, each operating their own versions of hustling gullible men, coincidentally meeting, deciding to work together as teacher – Hathaway’s classy Josephine – and student – Wilson’s schlubby Penny.

But the script regularly shows its hand, so it’s not going to surprise anyone that they cannot possibly work together, that one of them will always be trying to take advantage of the other, and vice versa. It comes down to the two of them getting into a not-so-friendly competition: Whoever bilks the next naïve male target out of an agreed-upon amount of money first gets to stay around to continue bilking; the other must leave town.

The target is young, excitable, exceedingly nice guy Thomas (newcomer Alex Sharp), a wealthy inventor who designs computer apps. And if there’s one thing that’s perfect in this movie, it’s this actor playing this oblivious mark. But all too soon, the competitive nature of the women’s relationship gets in the way of the story, keeping the focus on them as characters instead of what they’re trying to pull off. At the same time, the script is trying too hard to be funny, just as the Gypsy jazz-like score by Anne Dudley is trying too hard to make the film feel bouncy.

In its mercifully brief 90-minute running time, there are some inescapable laughs, and that’s a good thing. Unfortunately, they’re extremely sporadic.

Ed Symkus writes about movies for More Content Now. He can be reached at esymkus@rcn.com.

“The Hustle”
Written by Stanley Shapiro, Paul Henning, Dale Launer, Jac Schaeffer; directed by Chris Addison
With Anne Hathaway, Rebel Wilson, Alex Sharp
Rated PG-13



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