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The Hustle – Movie Review

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The Hustle – Movie Review

Rating: B- (Okay)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Universal Pictures

It’s not surprising the premise of Bedtime Story has been retold a few times in the decades since, most famously with Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. The story of a couple of con artists trying to outdo the other has a lot of comedic potential. There are some amusing moments in The Hustle and Chris Addison attempts to bring a ‘60s flair to his direction. The pairing of Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson is also inspired and the film mostly acts as a vehicle for these two to square off. The film moves breezily along, but as a whole, it doesn’t quite generate the laughs needed to become more than just a casual viewing.

One thing working against The Hustle’s favour is how closely the plot follows Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. For those who have seen the earlier Frank Oz film, which had Michael Caine and Steve Martin as the con artists, this new take offers little in the way of surprises. The new screenplay obviously updates a number of elements for the modern age, but it otherwise sticks rather closely to what came before it. Thankfully, Hathaway and Wilson are able to make the roles their own and rely on their own talents. Hathaway appears to especially enjoy herself by putting on a Julie Andrews impression.

Rebel Wilson relies on her usual shtick, which does produce laughs here and there. She certainly gives it her all in the physical comedy department and a few one-liners do stick the landing. Alex Sharp is also worth mentioning as a Mark Zuckerberg type the leads try to con. He brings the necessary meekness to the role and makes it understandable why Wilson would eventually feel sympathetic towards him. The more successful jokes in The Hustle tend to happen in the first half, when we see the initial interactions between Hathaway and Wilson. However, the movie eventually starts going through the motions and the gags don’t hit, even though the actors are certainly trying.

The film especially milks a running joke of Wilson pretending to be blind. It’s not a bad bit, but it gets old rather quickly. Chris Addison is clearly influenced by 1960s capers, right down to an animated opening title sequence. Composer Anne Dudley’s spirited score also owes a lot to Henry Mancini and does fit the comedic scenarios being presented. With around a 90 minute runtime, The Hustle does move at a brisk place as it goes from comical set-piece to set-piece. While the laugh ratio could have been a little higher, the film at least doesn’t wear out its welcome or have scenes drag on for longer than necessary.

The Hustle is a noble effort to bring the concept of Bedtime Story and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels to the 21st century, but the film never becomes anything too special or memorable. It might work better for those who haven’t seen the earlier versions and thus, aren’t waiting for specific plot points to occur. Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson do prove to be a team-up that could work better in other films that aren’t merely remaking earlier comedies. The gags and jokes attempted here aren’t necessarily bad ones, but the landing and timing just needed to be better, because these are two talented actresses and could have easily turned those slight chuckles into big guffaws.

Stefan Ellison

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