Sunday, July 29, 2012

You've Got to See This: "The Impostors" (1998)

Last week I started a new feature called "You've Got to See This," which will talk about movies I really enjoyed that you may not have seen (or in some cases, even heard of). This was inspired by a recent Entertainment Weekly feature called The 50 Best Movies You've Never Seen.

This week: 1998's The Impostors, a slapstick comedy directed by Stanley Tucci.

In 1996, Tucci and Oliver Platt directed and starred in Big Night, which told the story of two brothers whose Italian restaurant is failing, so they plan one special night to try and turn it around. In The Impostors, Tucci hoped to capture some similar magic, and brought a number of the actors from Big Night back.

Out-of-work actors Arthur (Tucci) and Maurice (Oliver Platt) are dejected about their failure to land work. When their heckling of famed thespian Sir Jeremy Burtom (Alfred Molina) leads Burtom to threaten the pair's lives, they stow away on a cruise ship. And wouldn't you know it, Burtom and his entourage end up on the ship as well, so Arthur and Maurice turn to disguises, hiding places, and general mischief in order to avoid the certainly inevitable chaos which is sure to ensure should Burtom find them.

The ship is populated by a number of interesting characters, including Campbell Scott as staff director Meistrich, who rules the ship with an iron fist and a monocle, and fancies head stewardess Lily (Lili Taylor), who is in love with ship detective Marco (Matt McGrath). Meanwhile, first mate Voltri (Tony Shalhoub) has plans to blow up the ship on behalf of his unnamed country, the morose Emily Essendine (Hope Davis) has taken a shine to suicidal lounge singer Happy Franks (Steve Buscemi), and a couple (Alison Janney and Richard Jenkins) have a major heist planned. Needless to say, major hijinks ensue.

The Impostors is definitely an homage to the slapstick comedies of yesterday. There is a great deal of broad physical comedy and farce in the movie, so if you're not a fan, this is probably not a movie for you. It's one of those movies to watch when you're in a carefree, humorous mood, and not looking for a movie that's intellectually stimulating. You can certainly tell that the actors had a lot of fun while making the film, and I can only imagine how many takes some of the scenes took, because many of the actors look like they're just on the verge of bursting into laughter more than a few times.

Is it a perfect film? Absolutely not. But it's zany, wacky, and a little stupid, and sometimes that's all I need to crack me up.

Watch the trailer.

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