Apparently Anne Hathaway had a very good time joining a glamorous all-female gang of thieves in “Ocean’s 8” last year; so good, it looks like she forgot how to read a screenplay. A gender-flipped remake of “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” “The Hustle” stars Hathaway as Josephine, a sleek con woman on the French Riviera (in other words, the Michael Caine part), and Rebel Wilson as boorish swindler Penny (the Steve Martin part) who becomes both her competition and her partner in crime.
None of this is a terrible idea, and I was looking forward to a return of Hathaway’s sly, funny form in “Ocean’s 8”; as a famous actress with a loose code of ethics, she was so preeningly self-satisfied, she practically purred. And director Chris Addison, who’s helmed many episodes of the brilliant dark comedy “Veep” on HBO, seemed like he might be up for the task. Gulp. “The Hustle,” alas, is a lazy mess, and really the only thing I can praise about it is the martini-shaped cookie that was handed out to preview-screening attendees. Since I’m assuming these won’t show up at regular showings, more’s the pity — well, you have been warned.
Hathaway and Wilson, instead of exuding odd-couple comic chemistry, seem to barely be in the same movie; they don’t click, with each other or with a bland Alex Sharp as their tech-bro mark. The editing is so sloppy that bits of the movie seem to have vanished, and the screenplay is far too faithful — borrowing even the final twist — from the original. Wilson does her usual pratfall-y shtick; Hathaway plays with accents and mostly looks uncomfortable.
Early on, Hathaway’s character touches on something that should have been the key to this movie: “No man will ever believe that a woman is smarter than he is,” Josephine tells Penny, explaining this is why women actually make better con artists than men. And then the movie promptly abandons this idea; nobody we meet in “The Hustle” is smart, and 93 minutes becomes very, very long. Despite the cookie, I wished I’d stayed home and re-watched “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” — maybe as a double feature with “Ocean’s 8” — instead.
★½ “The Hustle,” with Rebel Wilson, Anne Hathaway, Alex Sharp. Directed by Chris Addison, from a screenplay by Jac Schaeffer, Stanley Shapiro, Paul Henning, and Dale Launer. 93 minutes. Rated PG-13 for crude sexual content and language. Opens May 10 at multiple theaters.