by Tony Medley
Runtime 105 minutes
Not for children.
Why does anybody makes a piece of putrid porridge like this? That it
fails to measure up is no surprise, considering the people responsible,
writers/directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, who wrote the deplorable
Billy Bob Thornton vehicle Bad Santa (2003).
Apparently almost every actor in Hollywood turned down the starring role
until it was finally offered to Will Smith. First Ryan Gosling, then
Brad Pitt declined, then Ben Affleck. Women ran away from it, too. It
was first going to Emma Stone, then Kristen Stewart. After Stewart bowed
out, Michelle Williams, Jessica Biel, Rose Byrne, and Olivia Munn were
considered before Margot Robbie, who is known mostly for taking off all
her clothes in The Wolf of Wall Street, jumped at the chance.
What a pairing, Will and Margot!
This movie needs a lot to make it work, but the basic premise is that
Smith and Robbie are strongly attracted to one another and are madly in
love. So it’s deadly when there isn’t a scintilla of chemistry between
the two actors. In fact their love scenes are so excruciatingly awful
one wants to turn away and look elsewhere until the scenes change.
Worse than the acting, though, is the ludicrous plot that has Smith
perform feats of sleight of hand that would be beyond Bob Arno’s talent.
There is a scene at the beginning in which Smith steals one thing after
another from Robbie and she is just overwhelmed, “Golly, gee, how did
you do that?” Of course what he does can only be done in a movie. But
Will is intended to be a con man; what’s the point of establishing him
as a pickpocket if the point of the film is that he’s a con man? Oh,
well, what the hey, credibility is the least of Ficarra and Requa’s
Probably the most offensive part of the movie is that it obviously
thinks it is just oh, so clever. But most of the repartee falls flat,
either because the lines are banal or because Smith and Robbie are not
up to sharp dialogue, probably both. They look like Channing Tatum and
Marilyn Monroe trying to plod through the quick-witted dialogue of As
You Like It, the thought of which nauseates me. But even
Christopher Plummer and Vanessa Redgrave (whom I saw in that Shakespeare
play in Stratford in 1961) couldn’t make this script come alive. Even
so, Will and Margot make it immeasurably worse than it must appear on
the written page.
Smith and Robbie mouth lines that fall far short of being funny or
clever, perform deeds that strain credulity beyond the breaking point,
and engage in preposterous situations, leading up to an ending that is worse