Courtesy Photo
93 minutes | Rated: PG
Opened: Friday, May 1, 1998
Directed by Stefan Schwartz

Starring Dan Futterman, Stuart Townsend & Kate Beckinsale

Link to: Interview w/star Dan Futterman
Glaring loopholes haunt, but don't hinder, scam comedy

The eventual outcome of "Shooting Fish" is unnecessarily obvious from the get-go.

Its about two affable, orphan con artists in an extended adolescence who steal from the rich to finance themselves a nice big house.

Along the way they recruit an adorable accomplice who, coincidentally, is trying to rescue a nice big house used by a medical charity from her fuddy-duddy fiance's developer father.

Even with all kinds of glaring loopholes that arise in the story, I think you can do the math.

But "Shooting Fish," while transparent in its plot, is enjoyably playful in its details, owing much of it's mood to campy speed comedies like "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" and "A Hard Day's Night."

The film stars Dan Futterman (Robin Williams' son in "The Birdcage") as a conspicuously charming American grifter, Brit Stuart Townsend as his shy but hip computer geek counterpart and Kate Beckinsale ("Cold Comfort Farm") as their seemingly innocent med student cohort.

Together they fleece corporate suits with fake voice recognition computers, run a insulation scam on suburban housewives, peddle miracle light bulbs to gullible investors and get thrown in a very cushy jail. All of which looks like great fun when edited together with a peppy, gratuitous pop soundtrack.

Written, directed and produced by Stefan Schwartz and Richard Holmes, college buddies who formed a comedy team in the late 1980s, then their own small production company a few years later, "Shooting Fish" is a sophomoric picture with an often weakly predicated plot (all their stashed money is in 50-pound notes, which are recalled while they're in the clink, instigating an escape).

But because the characters are winsome and the dialogue agreeably sassy, the film is funny and energetic enough to forgive most of it's lame devices. Beckinsale is especially magnetic as the pixie-ish Georgie, inspiring a rivalry for her affection between the slick and sullen best friends, who use their scamming skills to compete for her heart.

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