Building a farce around mother-daughter hustlers is a fun idea, but Heartbreakers is a hit-and-miss affair. It squeezes plenty of guffaws out of an opening wedding sequence between Max (Sigourney Weaver) and Dean (Ray Liotta), where the statuesque con whips her latest husband into a state of lust then goes to ingenious lengths to send him to an ice-cold shower. After this promising start, however, Max's subsequent scheme - - posing as a Russian emigre temptress to woo a dying tobacco tycoon (Hackman) - - are scuppered by Weaver's "comedy" Soviet accent and laboured attempts to get laughs.
In fact, Heartbreakers is pretty half-hearted. Director David Mirkin wants us to chortle at the venal antics of these mercenary scammers, but also buy into the notion that, hey, they're really just a normal mom and daughter. So, Max only wants the best for Page, while Page, like, just wants to be her own girl. But their bickering feels more like pandering to the audience than being true to the characters, and dilutes a movie that should have been as enjoyably nasty as Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.
Weaver, who showed so much comic flair in last year's Galaxy Quest, doesn't rediscover that form here. Maybe it's because the script isn't as sharp, though having to play most of her scenes opposite Hewitt doesn't help. The ample-bosomed teen-queen has an array of skin-tight outfits and pouty expressions, but let's face it, she's no Kirsten Dunst, or even Mena Suvari.
What saves Heartbreakers are old boys Ray Liotta and Gene Hackman, both in entertaining form. Hackman is particularly gut-busting as the chain-smoking zillionaire: looking like death cooled down and sporting a hacking cough that could strip paint at 50 yards, he ends up stealing the film.
With its coming-of-age dilemmas and slushy romance, Heartbreakers never gets as down and dirty as you'd like, preferring to stick to the sunny side of farce. But Gene Hackman and Ray Liotta both tap the funny bone on multiple occasions.