2012 Running time: 90 Certificate: 12 Not yet rated

Synopsis

Colin Firth and Cameron Diaz step into Michael Caine and Shirley MacLaine's shoes for this breezy remake of the 1966 heist caper. Firth plays Harry Deane, a disgruntled London art curator who enlists a sassy Texan cowgirl (Diaz) to con his obnoxious, megarich boss (Alan Rickman) into buying a forged Monet. It's a cunning plan, but thanks the Coen Brothers' jitterbugging script, it descends into farce faster than Harry's trousers.

Director

  • Michael Hoffman

Cast

  • Colin Firth

  • Cameron Diaz

  • Alan Rickman

  • Tom Courtenay

  • Stanley Tucci

Review

Now. Not a lot of people know that remakes of Michael Caine classics generally blow like the bloody doors off a security van... Well, only the people who've seen the 21st century versions of Alfie, The Italian Job, Get Carter and Sleuth anyway.

But with a script by the Coen Brothers, there were hopes that this reboot of Caine's zesty 1966 hook-up with Shirley Maclaine might buck the trend.

Alas, everyone involved appears to have seen it less like the next country for old men than easy money for old rope.

The problems begin with Colin Firth, who can't reconcile his deadpan style with the physical schtick needed to pull off a character who thinks like the Pink Panther but acts like Inspector Clouseau.

Where Caine's heistmeister was a smooth cat burglar, Firth's Harry Deane is a tweedy art curator who, fed up of being belittled by his boss - Rickman's self-obsessed media tycoon Lionel Shahbandar - decides to rip him off.

In cahoots with his forger friend Major Wingate (a sadly underused Tom Courtenay), Harry intends to dupe Shahbandar into buying a 'Monet' he's discovered hanging in the Texas trailer home of rodeo queen PJ Puznowski (Diaz).

Unfortunately, when PJ arrives in London to seal the deal, Harry has trouble reining her in. He knew that Shahbandar would be unable to resist her thigh-slapping charms, but once she gets a taste for the champagne lifestyle, Harry's plan starts to come apart at the seams.

For screwball comedy to work, each bit of nonsense should skip lightly into the next. This one waddles from scene to uninspired scene like its pants are round its ankles.

It's perhaps unkind to judge Firth's slapstick skills on a performance that demands little more physicality than being punched on the nose, losing his trousers and getting his hand stuck in a jar. But he agreed to it.

As he flounders outside his comfort zone, Rickman and Diaz happily freewheel through roles they can do in their sleep while Stanley Tucci also receives the order of indistinction as a German art expert who has nothing to offer but ze voefully unfunny acczent.

Only during the mini-farce that develops at the Savoy Hotel - driven by a pair of nudge-nudge concierges and a little innuendo - does the script show any sign of invention. Beyond that, it's a procession of sub-Mr Beanery, tired stereotypes (starchy Brits, heel-clicking Germans - what next, karaoke-loving Japanese businessmen? Oh yes...) and shrugworthy anticlimaxes.

The Coens' best comedy emerges from dark and surreal situations. But, as they must have learned from Intolerable Cruelty, sticking old plonk in a bright and shiny bottle doesn't make it fizz. Anyone can make an honest misfire, but this feels like a cynical grab for the pay cheque.

"The con is on" proclaim the posters. Don't say they didn't warn you.

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