Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)
Dirty Double Crossing Scoundrels
Oh, Lawrence! This is the happiest day of my life! I think my testicles are dropping! - Freddy Benson
It may come as a surprise too some but 1988's hit comedy "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" starring Steve Martin and Michael Caine was in fact a remake of a 1964 movie called "Bedtime Story" which starred David Niven and Marlon Brando. But unlike many remakes director Frank Oz has done a brilliant job of making "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" entertaining with a series of memorable scenes whilst capitalizing on the comic talents of Steve Martin and also Michael Caine.
When crude con artist Freddy Benson (Steve Martin - Roxanne) roles up in Beaumont-sur-Mer on the French Riviera he discovers that he has tough competition in the form of the debonair Lawrence Jamieson (Michael Caine - The Whistle Blower) whose fine line as a fake Prince in exile allows him to swindle vast sums of money out of gullible ladies. But the resort is not big enough for the two of them, and they agree to a wager as to who can con $50,000 out of American Soap Queen Janet Colgate (Glenne Headly) with the loser agreeing to leave the Riviera and never return.
"Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" is very much a movie of two halves with the first half focusing on the rivalry between Michael Caine's Lawrence Jamieson, the suave bounder, and Steve Martin's Freddy Benson, the un-refined con man. Honestly the first half really doesn't have much of a storyline, you have the bit about how Jamieson and Benson meet as well as how Jamieson tries to turn Benson into a sophisticated con artist but the focus in the opening 45 minutes is on humour, humour and more humour from a series of set pieces and scenes. This is not a criticism as the first half is an absolute riot with both Caine's smarmy humour and Martin's more visual comedy working brilliantly together to have you in fits of laughter. Literally the first half of "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" has so many memorable funny scenes that choosing a favourite is hard but those which feature Steve Martin playing the character of Ruprecht, Jamieson's younger inept brother, are hysterical especially those around the dinner table.
It's not until the second half of "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" that a more prominent storyline appears, that being the competition to hustle the ditzy Soap Queen Janet Colgate out of her money. Although I say it's a more prominent storyline, unlike other movies which revolve around the world of con artists it's not overly complex and pretty predictable even when it comes to the outcome of all the duplicity. Even so it allows for Jamieson to go head to head with Benson with each one trying to out do each other with various hilarious cons and memorable scenes. Plus Frank Oz has judged the pacing of both sides of "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" perfectly so you are never a few minutes from another laugh.
Performance wise well I have to say that it is a surprise that the partnership of Michael Caine and Steve Martin works so well. Michael Caine understandably takes on the role of suave, polished bounder who works an effective con as an exiled prince. It's a character which fits perfectly with Caine and not only does he come across as an adept bounder in the style of David Niven but also very effective when it comes to the humour especially as he leaves the fooling around to Steve Martin but then has you laughing with a great line in smarmy repartee and a smile as wide as the Cheshire cats.
As Caine plays the suave role Steve Martin gets to excel as Freddy Benson doing what he does best, being the fool. From start to finish whether it's playing the crude con-man, trying to learn to be a suave bounder or playing the hapless Ruprecht, Martin has you in stitches and never lets you stop laughing. It's a perfect character for Steve Martin and allows him to prove his claim that he is a wild and crazy guy.
What this all boils down to that despite being made at the end of the 80's "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" has aged amazingly well and although a couple of the out fits look dated it could have easily have been made within the last decade. Not only has it visually aged well but it is still as funny today as it was when it was originally released and honestly is funnier than a lot of the crude and uninspired comedy which hits our screens these days.
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