Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson are not the next great comedy duo

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Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson are a pair of competing con artists in "The Hustle," a comedy that fails the most important con of them all: always stay one step ahead of your mark.

The mark here is the audience, and "The Hustle's" moves are telegraphed with glowing neon signs. And it's difficult to buy into the scheme when the material feels like it was written by middle schoolers.   

We're to believe that Josephine (Hathaway), with her "oh dahhhling" theater kid accent, is a major player on the international con scene who has amassed a fortune of $28 million by grifting foolish womanizers.

Comparatively, Lonnie (Wilson) is small time, using a picture of a hot girl on her cellphone to bilk dudes for a grand total of around $500,000. When they meet, Josephine wants Lonnie gone, because there's only room for one con artist in the fictional French town of Beaumont-Sur-Mer. But Josephine makes Lonnie her apprentice, and they compete to take down tech billionaire Thomas (Alex Sharp) in a loser-leaves-town competition. 

"The Hustle" borrows its DNA from 1988's "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels," which itself was a remake of 1964's "Bedtime Story." It's essentially a showcase for Hathaway and Wilson and their opposing styles: Hathaway's svelte grace, and Wilson's bawdy crudeness.

But their chemistry never gels, and "The Hustle" isn't funny enough to overcome its glaring issues. A central plot line involves Lonnie faking blindness, the plausibility of which would have the bit tossed out of an improv troupe. Who's conning who here? In "The Hustle," everyone's a sucker, most of all the audience. 

'The Hustle'

GRADE: C

Rated PG-13: for crude sexual content and language

Running time: 94 minutes

agraham@detroitnews.com

@grahamorama

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