The Impostors - * * * 1/2*

The Impostors

Following the art house success Big Night, Stanley Tucci has set his sights on making a screwball comedy. With a top notch cast, and plenty of good humor, The Impostors is warmly reminiscent of the great screwball comedies of old.

Arthur and Maurice (Stanley Tucci and Oliver Platt) are two struggling actors in the 1930s. Desperate for work, they perform impromptu live performances in the middle of an unsuspecting sidewalk cafe. They’ve also been known to attempt the occassional con or two in order to get food on their meager plates.

Through a convoluted series of events, the bumbling pair mistakenly stow away aboard a cruise ship. There, they disguise themselves as stewards and mingle with a zany variety of vacationers, including an arrogant actor out for their blood (Alfred Molina), and a man’s man tennis pro (Billy Connolly) who’s after them for very different reasons.

The crew of the ship isn’t too helpful to the pair. Although they do find a sympathetic ear in Lily (Lili Taylor), they find the fascistic head steward Meistrich (Campbell Scott) has no tolerance for stowaways. A suicidal entertainer (Steve Buscemi) and a first mate with a secret agenda (Tony Shalhoub) simply add to the already bizarre mix.

Writer-director Stanley Tucci was apparently aiming to recreate a good ol’-fashioned screwball comedy…and he mostly succeeds. Even when a few of the far-fetched setups don’t quite work…the actors seem to be having such a good time that the frantically festive mood begins to rub off.

Tucci and Platt enjoy a hearty comradery from right off the bat, a fact crucial to making the film work. The pair are introduced in a hilarious silent bit, and we get to know the characters before even a word is uttered.

The title of The Impostors doesn’t just represent the main characters. Virtually everyone in the film is an impostor of one sort or another, pretending to be something he or she isn’t. The various plots and intersections of the characters provide much of the film’s humor.

When the film actually gets to the ship and introduces us to its whirlwind of characters, the introductions are swiftly and deftly handled without confusion. The supporting ensemble deliver terrific performances all around, and are a delight to behold.

There are a few misfired gags here and there, but the film has plenty of good gags to spare. While it won’t rank up with the all-time screwball classics, The Impostors is still a wonderful little comedy.

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