Director: Chris Addison
Writers: Stanley Shapiro (screenplay by), Paul Henning (screenplay by)
Starring Anne Hathaway, Rebel Wilson, Alex Sharp, Ingrid Oliver, Emma Davies, Nicholas Woodeson, Dean Norris, Timothy Simons, Rob Delaney, Tom Blake Nelson.
Holding up my screening copy of The Hustle, I asked my daughter, Natalie, “Did you wanna check this out with me? Your wife is in it.” Natalie often jokingly refers to actors she considers attractive as her ‘wife’ or ‘husband.’ In this case, it would be Anne Hathaway.
“Nah,” she replied. “I can’t stand Rebel Wilson.” No wedding bells there, I guess.
I never found Wilson particularly funny, either, but at least in the other films I’ve seen her in, she’s been just a supporting character. In The Hustle, not only does Wilson share top billing with Anne Hathaway, she’s essentially the main protagonist, meaning her brash brand of it’s-funny-because-I’m-fat humour is here in abundance. Fans will probably enjoy her performance; others will find it obnoxious and interminable.
The Hustle is an inferior remake of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (which was also a remake, by the way). Other than swapping genders, it doesn’t bring anything new to the table that might justify its existence. Hathaway & Wilson are no Caine & Martin, but you probably knew that already. And while there’s an occasional chuckle here and there, this is another case where all the truly laugh-out-loud moments appear in the trailer.
Hathaway can be quite funny but isn’t given much of an opportunity here, mostly playing straight-man to Wilson’s buffoonery. Speaking of which, the film often coasts on the assumption that being overweight is inherently amusing. And I suppose many people think it is. But even when she isn’t trying to milk laughs based on her size, there’s something about Wilson’s delivery and performance that feels kind of desperate. In that respect, she’s more Chris Farley than Melissa McCarthy: Laugh with me or laugh at me, as long as you’re laughing.
I didn’t laugh much either way, not at anything Rebel Wilson says or does, anyway. Hathaway looks like she’s having fun, but the best moments belong to supporting characters, particularly Nicholas Woodeson as one of Hathaway’s con-game cohorts. As for the rest of the film, the story is completely free of surprises, its four writers unable to come up with a unique spin on a familiar tale. That might make The Hustle a reheated dish of comfort food for undemanding viewers. It still tastes like leftovers, though, including Wilson’s schtick.