The Hustle was first born in 1964, as a fizzy crime caper called Bedtime Story starring Marlon Brando and David Niven, then born again as Dirty Rotten Scoundrels with Steve Martin and Michael Caine in 1988.
That’s a pretty heady pedigree to mess with, but this wayward little puppy of a remake isn’t exactly going for posterity; mostly it just spins around, pratfalls, and pees on the rug.
That’s hardly the fault of its two stars, who dance as fast they can for a series of dizzily chaotic set pieces (the script is essentially identical to Scoundrels, scene for scene, though the jokes about white slavery and social media are new).
Rebel Wilson is Lonnie, a blonde hurricane in a Bump-It who separates men from their money mostly by catfishing at bars. She meets her high-end counterpart in Josephine (Anne Hathaway), an imperious Brit working much more high-end cons in the fictional French resort town of Beaumont-sur-Mer.
Lonnie wants in on the Beaumont action; Josephine wants her on the next economy-class carrier out. They compromise by agreeing to team up on a two-pronged swindle called Lord of the Rings (it involves an elaborate bait-and-switch with a string of smitten fiancés) — and when that fails to get rid of Lonnie, a bet: that the first one to get $500,000 out of a bumbling young tech billionaire (Alex Sharp) wins the right to stay on in Beaumont, alone.
There are a few legitimately great throwaway lines, and a few vaguely offensive ones. But the movie feels so fast and cheap that it’s hard not to wonder why they’ve made it at all, other than to jump on a small and so-far underwhelming trend in gender-swapping ‘80s remakes (see also: Ghostbusters, Overboard).
For truly inspired lunacy, go watch the late, great Glenn Headly as a helium-voiced heiress in the original Scoundrels — and save The Hustle for the future in-flight entertainment system that already feels like its destiny. C
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