Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

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(1988) ★★★½

ITV1: Sunday 19 July, 2.40pm

Smarmy ex-pat Riviera con man Michael Caine reluctantly teaches brash American upstart Steve Martin a few tricks of the trade in a consistently funny remake of the forgettable early-60s Marlon Brando/David Niven comedy Bedtime Story. Niven and Brando laboured for laughs. Not so Martin and Caine. Hair slicked with gel, Caine is a louche lounge lizard oozing phoney sincerity. Out for a fast buck, the shabby Martin is crumpled and crass, a snake seeping crocodile tears. In a brinkmanship farce of escalating comic complications, Martin’s manic turn as the drooling idiot ‘Prince’ Ruprecht is a spluttering highlight, a one-man chimpanzee tea party. “No sudden moves,” warns Caine. The urbane Englishman is more relaxed, clearly enjoying the cruel humour. Not to mention the picturesque locations. Director Frank Oz had just completed his delightful Little Shop of Horrors musical, which featured a memorable cameo from Martin. They’d reunite to equally comical effect at the end of the 90s in the Eddie Murphy Hollywood farce Bowfinger. For better or for worse, the not so wild-and-crazy latter-day Martin can also be seen later today in Meryl Streep’s 2009 relationships comedy It’s Complicated, Channel 4 at 11.05pm.

Certificate: PG

Duration: 106min