Last year, Anne Hathaway stole the show in the ensemble crime comedy, “Ocean’s 8”. Now she and Rebel Wilson play a duo of dueling con artists in “The Hustle”, which plays as a cheap knock-off.
Hathaway, complete with a distracting British accent the majority of the time, plays Josephine. She and fellow crook Penny (played by Wilson) meet on a train. Eventually the two reunite at Josephine’s residence in France. There Josephine trains Penny in the deceptive arts. But soon the two become rivals, squaring-off to steal as many jewels and as much cash as possible.
“The Hustle” is essentially a female version of 1988’s “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels”, with Steve Martin and Michael Caine (which, itself, was a remake). The first two words in that title do sum-up “The Hustle” quite well. The film is rated PG-13. Wilson appeared before the MPAA to demand they change its initial R-rating and won her case. A story she recently told on “The Graham Norton Show” about making that appeal is far more interesting than anything in the actual movie.
But the MPAA’s change was a mistake. There’s an overall slimy nature about “The Hustle”, with plenty of pointless sexual references. An R-rating was warranted. In addition, most of the characters are unlikable, and I’m sure Wilson is getting sick and tired of playing someone who’s insecure about her body, the constant butt of fat jokes and asked to do pratfalls.
But in no way does she get a pass here. For about half of the movie, Wilson’s Penny pretends to be blind. The seemingly endless, mindless “running joke” is completely offensive. Overall, there are only a couple of moments in “The Hustle” when these two very talented stars appear to be having a good time. It seems it was just as painful for them to make this movie as it is for us to watch it.
At a mercifully thin 94 minutes, “The Hustle” suffers from a lack of story structure and pacing. And there isn’t a smidge of originality. Josephine’s butler is named Alfred. Really?
If you’re thinking of taking mom to see two of her favorite actresses over Mother’s Day Weekend: don’t be fooled. As a certain someone close to me said as the credits rolled, “I think there was a moment there when we should’ve left.”
On The Official LCJ Report Card, “The Hustle” gets a D.
Running Time: 94 min.