The Impostors

As an admirer of "Big Night," the 1996 sleeper hit co-written and co-directed (with Campbell Scott) by Stanley Tucci, I wish I could report that The Impostors is the work of impostors. But nooo, Tucci wrote and directed this stilted Depression-era farce about two out-of-work actors – Arthur (Tucci) and Maurice (Oliver Platt) – who stow away on an ocean liner to avoid prosecution by a hambone star (Alfred Molina) they attacked in a bar. Other Big Night vets aboard this sinking ship include Scott as a German steward, Isabella Rossellini as a deposed queen, Allison Janney as a fortune hunter and Tony Shalhoub as a nut-job first mate.

The cast reads like a who's who of indie cinema: Lili Taylor (Pecker) as the head stewardess, Billy Connolly (Mrs. Brown) as a gay tennis pro, Hope Davis (Next Stop, Wonderland) as a lovelorn heiress and the ever-hilarious Steve Buscemi (Fargo) as a suicidal romantic crooner. Buscemi's bit would be funnier if he hadn't done almost exactly the same thing in The Wedding Singer.

What went wrong? The film's pacing is leaden, Tucci and Platt make a subpar Laurel and Hardy, and the plot borrows from Some Like It Hot – drag included. Still, Tucci's talent is sure to survive this setback. A cast member claims that everyone on the Impostors' set was "cracking up all the time." There's the rub – this time, Tucci forgot to let the audience in on the joke.

From The Archives Issue 797: October 15, 1998