It’s time for yet another gender-swapping remake! It’s no secret that “The Hustle” is a remake of Frank Oz‘s 1988 “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” which is itself a remake of Ralph Levy‘s 1964 “Bedtime Story.” Screenwriters Stanley Shapiro and Paul Henning receive writing credits on all three films. The plot structure of these three films is so similar that only modern references, punchlines, and now gender, differ.
The best thing about “The Hustle” is the two female leads, Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson, who are both producers on the film as well. They have a delightful surplus of on-screen chemistry and are having a blast making this version their own. Both are equally skilled in the fine art of trading stinging verbal barbs and witticisms. I’d comment on their stunning good looks, but I’d rather not be lumped in with the simple, chauvinistic men that make up the majority of their marks.
As already mentioned, the plot is exactly the same as “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.” If you’ve ever seen it, then you will know precisely how the story plays out. If you’ve seen it recently or can recite it by heart, “The Hustle” may feel a bit tedious. Fortunately, for everything that remains the same, the humor is surprisingly fresh and diversified. There are equal portions of physical, mental, and situational comedy, with several punchlines striking unexpectedly. Perhaps that’s part of what makes this remake a bit special. With so much being the same and expected, the unexpected hits doubly hard.
For “The Hustle” the remake factor is a bit of a double-edged sword. It’s pulling from one of the classic comedies, and the premise is a solid one, but it’s just too close to its predecessor. There is a vacuum for more female-led films, but do they all need to be gender-swapped-remakes? Perhaps it’s just a stepping stone to newer and better things, as the studios are often skeptical that the type of movies we crave is profitable. Remember the stunned bean-counters after “Wonder Woman” and “Black Panther” raked in far more than expected? Thankfully, I hadn’t watched “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” in over a decade, and even though the plot contained no surprises for me, I laughed far more during “The Hustle” than I have at any other movie this year.