Franchise Fred is fine with The Hustle. I don’t expect anything to be as good as Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and it doesn’t have to be. It only needs to be also good for me to be happy that there is another Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, and man oh man, is The Hustle also good.
I’m most impressed how faithful The Hustle is to Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. (I don’t know how faithful Dirty Rotten Scoundrels was to Bedtime Story so it may even go back that far.) They could have just made any new movie about female con artists, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is special. Whether it’s funny or not, your mileage may vary but I was happy The Hustle respected the source. If it ain’t broke and all. That’s when it works the best. Whenever The Hustle adds something new, it tends to be more gimmicky slapstick.
I love the idea of a female remake, just because I like women. I want to see my favorite female stars get the comedy vehicles that maybe weren’t available to them in the ‘80s. Goldie Hawn and Bette Midler got a few but clearly “gender swapped remake” is a recent thing.
I do think superficial guys do deserve to be conned, and certainly guys who hand $500 to a stranger in the hopes that some other hot girl will get a boob job and then have sex with them. Using the plot of Taken seems a bit of a stretch, but even if a random rich guy on a train recognizes the plot he could still be sympathetic.
Anne Hathaway has the elegance of Michael Caine’s sophisticated chic. There’s some good fashion porn with her and when Josephine (Hathaway) gets tired of Penny (Wilson)’s schtick, Hathaway’s reactions are funny too. Some of the cons are updated to anticipate web research and social media so that’s a fun update.
Since I’ve confirmed how faithful The Hustle is, I’m sure you’ll all want to know about Ruprecht. Penny does play Hortense, a Ruprecht-like character in a long con. There is a joke involving going to the bathroom but it’s not the same, and no version of this will ever be as funny as Steve Martin’s. The Hustle probably handled it as best they could, doing a different version of the comic set piece so they don’t try to do it better, but they also don’t outright ignore it like the Broadway musical adaptation did.
It is unfortunate that many of the jokes are still based on the premise “why would a guy, even a total scumbag, want to fuck Rebel Wilson?” They could just avoid the sexual component entirely. This is a comedy about con artists, not women trying to get laid. What’s even more confusing is Wilson is in on it. Not only is she game to play those demeaning scenes, but she’s a producer. She could veto anything.
Wilson may just be trying too hard. She may need a strong director to reign her in. She’s funny and talented. She need not rely on fat jokes and pratfalls. And we’ve seen how a film like Isn’t It Romantic can capitalize on her talents outside of the Pitch Perfect schtick.
The con also turns to seduction which is unfortunate on several levels. It suggests that women still want to win a man, when the film established both Josephine and Penny are quite content having their own exciting lives in their line of work. It also brings up the sticky issue that once you start using people for sex, that’s less of a harmless or justified con. You can take their money but if you manipulate them into bed, that gets problematic. I suppose Michael Caine was quietly seducing wealthy women too but the original film carefully sidestepped that aspect of it. Could you imagine if they were just bedding women AND taking their money?
Of course The Hustle is no Dirty Rotten Scoundrels but it was more faithful than the Broadways musical adaptation. The Hustle won’t be a classic in 30 years the way Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is but it’s fine for this summer.