In a clear-cut case of perfecto casting, "Heartbreakers" stars Sigourney Weaver and Jennifer Love Hewitt as a mother-daughter con team who bilk rich men for a living. Slinky Weaver rushes them into marriages, curvy Hewitt immediately seduces them into cheating, and the two split Weaver's fat quickie divorce settlements.
Hewitt sheds much of her girl-next-door image -- and a lot of her clothes -- to play this deliciously malicious little sexpot. And her cocky attitude is surprisingly credible as daughter decides she has what it takes to run her own scams. In the movie's early going she agrees to swindle one more mark with her mom, and only because the IRS is on their backs for unpaid taxes, so they need fast cash.
Weaver is a riot as she vamps her way into the hearts of the suckers she leads to the altar while bringing them to a boil by dodging sexual encounters with protests of religious conviction. By the time Hewitt shows up busting out of some micro-minidress -- always on the morning after Weaver has feigned exhaustion to avoid wedding night obligations -- these hapless suckers can't help themselves.
Tired of small-time payoffs, this duo goes to wealthy Palm Beach and targets a decrepit old tobacco exec (an ashen Gene Hackman, hilariously hacking and wheezing his way through the movie). But their plan is complicated by the arrival of an fuming ex-husband (Ray Liotta) who has gotten wise to their game, and by the fact that Hewitt accidentally falls head over heels for a second mark she's trying to dupe behind mommy's back -- a bohemian bartender (Jason Lee) she mistakenly thinks is loaded.
"Heartbreakers" begins with boisterous belly laughs in the very first scene, at Weaver's and Liotta's wedding reception. When her new husband suggests they duck out of the party to consummate their vows, Weaver desperately starts accepting dances with every man she can get her hands on. "I just love your friends," she says over the shoulder of some guy who's grabbing her fanny. "That's the busboy!" yelps Liotta.
Directed by David Merkin (the man behind the under-appreciated screwball of "Romy and Michele's High School Reunion") with an eye for pacing and plucky, well-planned japes, "Heartbreakers" is so ripe with wicked comedic talent (Anne Bancroft, Carrie Fisher and Kevin Nealon have small roles too) that it's a bit of a shame the plot is a soft-pedaled affair.
Trying to keep the laughs fluffy and the rating PG-13, the film passes up many opportunities for the kind of caustic humor con comedies just beg for. This is also why Weaver and Hewitt get all they want from these men without sex -- and there's a credibility problem there.
A couple other minor complaints: While the film is never boring and always fun, 123 minutes is simply too long for a picture with a 100-percent predictable plot. I mean, the minute we meet Jason Lee (who makes a great foil for the newly nasty Jennifer Love), we know she's going to "leave the life" for him. And while Weaver and Hewitt are fun to watch, we never see them truly seduce anybody. We're just supposed to accept it as read that all men want to marry them because they reduce all men to pudding (including those in the audience).
But "Heartbreakers" is a movie that inspires a "who cares?" state of mind when it comes to its imperfections. All that matters is that the laughs are there in spades and that the good time clearly had by the cast while making this movie carries into the audience watching them on the screen.
Run time: 123 mins
In Theaters: Friday 23rd March 2001
Box Office USA: $39.9M
Distributed by: MGM
Production compaines: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), Davis Entertainment
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 53%
Fresh: 63 Rotten: 56
IMDB: 6.2 / 10
Director: David Mirkin
Starring: Sigourney Weaver as Max Conners, Jennifer Love Hewitt as Page Conners, Ray Liotta as Dean Cumanno, Gene Hackman as William B. Tensy, Jason Lee as Jack Withrowe, Anne Bancroft as Gloria Vogal, Stacey Travis as Nurse Gale Grey, Jeffrey Jones as Mr. Appel, Nora Dunn as Miss Madress, Sarah Silverman as Linda, Zach Galifianakis as Bill, Michael Hitchcock as Dr. Arnold Davis, Carrie Fisher as Ms. Surpin, Kevin Nealon as Man at the Bar
Also starring: David Mirkin