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‘The Hustle’ has amusing cons, but the victims are too cartoonish

The Hustle is sort of inspired by Dirty Rotten Scoundrels with Steve Martin and Michael Caine. That movie was genuinely funny because the setup was one very successful con man and one wannabe successful con man, whose entire con is conning older women who are looking for sort of an elegant, wealthy sophisticated European consort.

In this movie it’s Rebel Wilson and Anne Hathaway. It’s really a Rebel Wilson movie. She’s the main character and that’s the real problem with the film: you can’t really believe of anyone falling for her cons because her cons are just stupid and gross and silly. I think she’s a talented comedienne, but she could probably do better roles than this.

I’m giving The Hustle 2/4 stars.

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The basic premise of the film — which I think is kind of interesting — is that Anne Hathaway as the much more accomplished and successful con artist says, “Look, women have a natural advantage because no man will ever believe that a woman is smarter than him.”

The fundamental problem with the movie is that — even with some surprises in the plot and performances that work well enough and some gorgeous European locations — the people who are the victims of their various cons are all such stupid cartoons. In other words, part of what made the Oscar winning The Sting with Robert Redford and Paul Newman, and part of what made Dirty Rotten Scoundrels work, is that you could have some sympathy for some of the victims of the fraud. Here they all come across as just buffoonish and stupid and and easily manipulated.

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The two actresses seem to be having a great time. Anne Hathaway is a gifted comedienne and she’s extraordinarily glamorous and very effective in the movie. Which is why on balance, despite the fact that there’s not a plot here that you can believe for a moment, it still gets two stars.

I think most people who go out to see this movie — either because they’re Rebel Wilson fans or because they like the whole idea of female con artists basically preying on susceptible men — will enjoy it. The screening audience that I saw it with were laughing a great deal.

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But when people are laughing about pratfalls and about various means of insulting Rebel Wilson because she’s overweight, I just feel like I haven’t been invited to the party. It’s hard to say that this is one of those movies that’s worth $25 for two tickets, but if people are looking for a cool theater during a hot weekend, there are probably worse ways to spend your time.


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