Comedy is hard, so they say. Fluffy, 1960s-style caper movies are tough, too, if this mediocre remake of a far superior 1966 frolic is anything to go by. The original starred Michael Caine as a schemer teaming up with a nightclub dancer to part a wealthy Arab businessman from a priceless statue. The enticing prospect of the Coen brothers taking on the script of this version proves ill-founded: they’ve packed a re-tooled storyline with clunky stereotypes and botched the suspense in the climactic heist.
The actors partly save the day. Colin Firth adopts a fallback style of clenched teeth and a pained look. His likeable performance as a London art expert plotting to turn the tables on his employer with a fake Monet keeps the movie on track, just. But Cameron Diaz overdoes her gee-shucks cowgirl routine as the Texas rodeo artiste at the crux of Firth’s plans, while Alan Rickman gets it all wrong in his shrill turn as the bastard boss. There’s an air of laziness here, with tired attempts at wringing laughter from hapless Japanese businessmen and Firth minus his trousers. This sort of light diversion should sparkle and fizz, but ‘Gambit’ is like drinking cheap, warm champagne from a plastic cup.