Freddy Benson (Steve Martin) is a crass, loud American. Laurence Jameson (Michael Caine) is a suave, urbane European. Their common ground is that they both are confidence men, and they meet in a train compartment as Benson is scamming his way across … see full wiki
The men start as rivals, then become reluctant co-conspirators (in the FUNNIEST scenes of the movie, and maybe EVER!), and then, in the extended final act of the movie, rivals again, both trying to con the same woman, a naive American (Glenne Headly, terrific and enchanting as always).
Martin gets to show off his best comedic moves here. His physicality and pure ridiculous side is amply on display, but his more sophisticated, verbal skills are showcased as well. I'd be willing to say this is best, sustained purely comedic performance. Michael Caine is PERFECTLY cast as the suave Brit. He isn't "funny" per se, really the straight man, but he is the perfect foil for Martin, and he is charming and winning. He's seldom been more appealing and lighthearted.
Frank Oz directed this movie with zest and the right amount of panache. We enjoy the scenery, and we are eased into the movie slowly. The tension between the men is allowed to build slowly over time, making the final twists and turns (and there are many delightful ones) all the more fun.
I've seen this film half a dozen times, and I've got all the twists memorized, but there are still scenes I look forward to eagerly, and still laugh hysterically over. IN one bit, Martin is assigned to play the younger, insane brother of "Prince" Michael. Caine lures the rich women, gets their money and devotion, and then introduces them to his revolting brother (Martin), who scares the women away, leaving their money behind. Martin is so unbearably funny, and Caine plays his end so straight that, truly, the five minutes this stuff takes up in the movie may be the single most delightful five minutes you can spend in a screwball comedy.
I don't like to toss out the word "classic" too often, but I feel that perhaps this movie warrants it. I know I'll be watching it again and again in years to come!
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Comedy movie directed by Frank Oz
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