Instead of the laugh-fest it appears to be, "Heartbreakers," the new, generation-bridging, dark comedy co-starring Sigourney Weaver and Jennifer Love Hewitt, plays out like an endurance test. Not just because of its lengthy running time, either. Sitting through this predictable exercise in wasted talent, one gets the feeling that the screenwriters (Robert Dunn, Paul Guay and Stephen Mazur) believe they have crafted a script that's far more clever and amusing than it actually is. Adding to their collective hubris, they can't seem to keep from repeating themselves.
If only they'd been clever enough to repeat the movie's few funny parts. The plot deals with Max (Weaver) and Page (Hewitt), mother-daughter con-artists who prey upon prideful men and their weakness for the opposite sex. It goes something like this: Max teases a wealthy guy into marrying her and then, after Max passes out from too much to drink at the wedding reception, Page enters to seduce the new husband. The passed-out bride revives enough to catch them in the act; and Wham! Bam! Thank you, Raoul Felder, there's another hefty divorce settlement on the way.
Their latest victim is Dean (Ray Liotta, as miscast here as he was in "Hannibal"), a womanizer who pays $300,000 for his indiscretion. But when the IRS comes calling in the guise of Anne Bancroft (also a wasted talent here), mommie dearest heads to Palm Beach looking for a really big score.
She sets her cap for multibillionaire William Tensy (Gene Hackman), whose years of smoking and other venal excesses make him an easy mark. While Mom begins the seduction of Tensy, Page goes after bartender Jason Lee, whose small restaurant sits on a small parcel of real estate valued at $3 million. I don't want to spoil the surprise for you, but here's a clever twist Page forgets why she's there and actually falls for the guy. "Heartbreakers" tries to break new comedic ground by mixing two venerable genres the romantic comedy with the bumbling crime caper. In theory, there's nothing wrong with that premise. Its execution, however, is another matter. First, Max's and Page's con games are neither original nor interesting. Second, the romantic elements of the movie don't give off any heat. And the subplot about dysfunctional mother/daughter relationships is equally lacking in insight or interest.
I would be remiss if I didn't admit that "Heartbreakers" does have some funny moments. It does. But the majority of those laughs come from a few sight gags and throwaway lines, not the characters or their situations.
Weaver, who was so funny recently in "Galaxy Quest," holds her own here, doing what she can with the limited material. Love Hewitt is cute, and her revealing attire is one of the movie's few assets. But poor Hackman, what was he thinking? He spends most of the movie hacking and coughing as a tobacco tycoon who's about to drop dead from smoking. Taking dubious top honors here is Liotta, who though terribly miscast, gets the most mileage from the script, goofing on his own movie-gangster image.
One can't help wondering what the heck stars of this caliber saw in this script. Whatever it was certainly didn't make it onto the screen. Forget Max's and Page's cons, the biggest con is getting unsuspecting moviegoers to shell out their hard-earned bucks for a comedy that never delivers the laughs it should.