One of the directors of Big Night brings a screwball comedy to the screen. Does it work? Yep.Big Night was one of the better films of the last few years, thanks in no small part to writer/director/star Stanley Tucci. It was a sweetly comic film that showcased the food along with the actors and the story.
This time around, Tucci is working solo (without the assistance of his Big Night partner Campbell Scott, who has a small role) on The Impostors, a throwback to the screwball comedies from the 30's and 40's. Tucci invokes the Marx Brothers and Laurel and Hardy. It's feather light and almost instantly forgettable, but it's quite funny.
Tucci and Oliver Platt play Arthur and Maurice, a couple of out of work actors. The opening sequence of the film shows how they perform their craft: an impromptu performance (incuding a death scene) in front of an unsuspecting audience done entirely silent, save for background music. It's funny and arguably the best scene in the film. Arthur and Maurice, being out of work, have no money for food, so they try to swindle a baker out of some pastries, who in turn gives them tickets to see a performance of Hamlet, starring an inferior actor named Jeremy Burtom (Alfred Molina). They later insult him in a bar and hide from him as he chases after them. They end up aboard a cruise ship which Burtom himself shows up on, and must pass themselves off as crew members and avoid being caught. Along the way, they meet an eccentric group of characters: the ship's social director, Lily (Lili Taylor); a first mate (Tony Shalhoub) who's actually a mad bomber; a suicidal lounge singer (Steve Buscemi); a couple (Richard Jenkins and Allison Janney) intent on swindling rich folks; a Nazi-like steward (Scott); and a deposed queen (Isabella Rossellini), among others. It all adds up to switching identities and pratfalls, but somehow it works.
This is actually a sharming film, but there's not that much susbtance to it. There's no real plot to speak of, and the subplots (the mad bomber, the money-swindling couple) seem artificial. But the cast is incredibly strong here, and the dialogue is snappy. Tucci and Platt compliment each other extremely well: they look and act like an old comedy team, complete with wacky facial expressions and a character in drag. I liked the Lily character, and Campbell Scott is hilarious. I'd rather see Steve Buscemi in 10 movies like this than watch him in Armageddon again.It's not a particularly remarkable film, but you'll at the very least leave with a smile on your face.