A Bad Place Full Of Bad Jerks
A Bad Place Full Of Bad Jerks
Illustration for article titled Your (Occasional) Movie Guide to Movies You Should Watch Again: Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

Cast: Steve Martin (Freddy Benson), Michael Caine (Lawrence Jamieson), Glenne Headly (Janet Colgate)

Director: Frank Oz (Little Shop of Horrors, What About Bob?, Bowfinger, Death at a Funeral)


Plot: Without giving anything away, the film is about two con men in the French Riviera who are trying to get money from a rich American heiress. The film follows their competition to its interesting and surprising end.

Why you should watch it: This film, released in 1988, flies under the radar of comedies. For whatever reason, it's constantly overlooked. However, it is full of ridiculousness, idiocy and crass Americanism, which alone make it worth the price of admission. Steve Martin plays the typical "ugly American" Freddy (who the hell goes by "Freddy" anymore?) Benson, who succeeds in conning women out of money, albeit for what amounts to chump change. Michael Caine, who if you say "Michael Caine" in the voice of Michael Caine sounds like "My Cocaine," is the utterly European and refined Lawernce Jamieson. He's a roguish cad, one who oozes class while fleecing widows and other naive women. What makes this movie successful is the pairing of Martin and Caine, the setting, and the idiocy of it all.

Martin and Caine are polar opposites in almost every way. They play this fact to the hilt in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Oddly enough, this film was originally supposed to star Mick Jagger and David Bowie. Think about that for a minute. Now, snap back to reality and see that Martin and Caine are infinitely better actors and more suited for these roles. Martin is perfect as the slimy American while Caine is born to act in the role of European playboy. They finally work together, sort of, and create a winner-take-all competition to win the affections of Glenne Headly's Janet. The actors are very believable in their roles, and that goes a long way to making the film a pleasant experience for the viewer. While the actors play their part, the locale has a hand in lending authenticity and depth to the film.

The fictional town of Beaumont-sur-Mer is based on the actual French Rivera town of Beaulier-sur-Mer. It is as gorgeous a French seaside village as one may find. I don't think the film would've played as well had the setting been Miami, New York, or Los Angeles. Having the film set in a luxurious town in Europe seems appropriate. The homes are decadent, the town is quaint, and the climate is gorgeous. These factors serve to remind the viewer that wealth is of the utmost importance here, and that continually acts as a motivation for Freddy and Lawrence.


As far as idiocy and humor, it comes in abundance. If you've seen this film before, I only need to say "Ruprecht." Martin excels as both a sympathetic character (injured US Army soldier) and a moron (the aforementioned Ruprecht), while Caine plays his role as idiot-free, save for being in charge of the idiot. The dialogue is quick, smart, and aptly directed by Frank Oz. The film is sort of a remake of the 1964 film Bedtime Story, starring David Niven and Marlon Brando. I say sort of because the plot is slightly different, however the main characters use the same names.

I honestly love this movie. I forgot how funny it was when I recently rewatched it. Check out the trailer and determine if you want to watch it again. As always, comments are encouraged.

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