Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is set in a mythic French Riviera, a delirious paradise that seems to be populated only by rich Americans, a couple of rival American con artists, and one charmingly corrupt French police chief. It's a concept that would make the French laugh out loud. Not that they don't have their own share of nutty cinematic visions, including le vieux Far West, but because this is Cannes as the returned GIs imagined it. Or Monte Carlo as described by Ian Fleming.
This story started out as the 1964 film Bedtime Story with David Niven as Lawrence, the urbane seducer who fooled American heiresses with his false identity as a displaced royal from eastern Europe, and with Marlon Brando as a younger hustler. Brando was willing to take Niven's tutelage, then competed with him in a bet to seduce a vulnerable looking sweet thing. The 1988 remake by Frank Oz Dirty Rotten Scoundrels featured Michael Caine and Steve Martin and followed the same lines. In 2005 Lane and Yazbek turned it into a musical with John Lithgow as the more sophisticated seducer. Oh, and that's not all -- back in 2008, Hollywood actor-writer-director Steve Pink announced that he was developing a treatment with MGM for a new version. That one may come out in 2012. The scoundrels will presumably be using i-Phones, tweeting and all that.
Why keep running this tale again and again?
Because it's an American male fantasy, for one thing -- living without a care, adored for one's sophistication, looks and title, enjoying wine, women and song, the decadent best of exotic Old Europe. Plus the fact that we enjoy seeing lightweight cons succeed, thanks to their wits, and we like it even more when the pair of rascals duel with one anonther.
The publicity and the poster label Dirty Rotten Scoundrels as being "for MATURE audiences," but those are code words for the fact that there will be some sexual innuendos and bathroom jokes that will make you giggle. The music keeps it lively and there's a movie-style twist and comeuppance at the end.