A remake of a remake, The Hustle uses its opening credits to set its sights in a different area: the Saturday morning cartoon. Our two leads cartwheel through Hanna Barbera-inspired capers reminiscent of all those flicks you had on video or DVD, watched and rewatched on end. On reflection, these films were pretty naff, and certainly male-centric. The Hustle admirably looks to provide a new alternative – but have we all grown beyond the conman caper?
Anne Hathaway lets her hair down as the uptight, upper-crust Josephine. Sure, her British accent is a little on the nose, and The Hustle does itself no favours by invoking Julie Andrews, but Hathaway is clearly having a good time and her joy is infectious. Wilson however, is yet again caught up in her own shtick. The film initially sets her up as the catfish conwoman, robbing fatphobic misogynists one trust fund at a time. Unfortunately, this quickly gets sidelined to make room for overeating gags and endless pratfalls. The Hustle thinks it’s enough to give her the big romantic arc, but that doesn’t justify 90 minutes of repeating tired tropes that Wilson made her name subverting.
And that’s The Hustle’s greatest problem – it keeps trying to have its cake and eat it. Gender-swapping the original Dirty Rotten Scoundrels/Bedtime Story is a great idea, but it’s not enough to just play the same tasteless jokes in the other direction. One “gag” in an airplane toilet almost sours the whole film, and the film’s twist – lifted straight from Scoundrels – actually becomes worse in the retelling.
The Hustle switches tack, but it doesn’t update antiquated ideas, and misses the mark because of it. A waste of a good idea and a stellar cast and crew – although there’s just about enough laughs to satisfy for lazy Saturday viewing.
CAST: Anne Hathaway, Rebel Wilson, Tim Blake Nelson, Alex Sharp
DIRECTOR: Chris Addison
WRITERS: Stanley Shapiro, Paul Henning, Dale Launer (story and screenplay), Jac Schaeffer (screenplay)
SYNOPSIS: Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson star as female scam artists, one low-rent and the other high-class, who team up to take down the dirty rotten men who have wronged them.