Firth loses his trousers and his dignity in shoddy farce
Michael Hoffman's remake of the 1966 screwball caper about a cat burglar and showgirl who plan an elaborate heist has impeccable credentials. Screenwriters Joel and Ethan Coen have Oscars on the mantelpiece for Fargo and No Country For Old Men. Leading man Colin Firth deservedly collected a golden statuette for his exemplary work in The King's Speech.
Co-star Tom Courtenay was short-listed for Hollywood's top honour for Doctor Zhivago and The Dresser, while Hoffman himself guided Helen Mirren and Christopher Plummer to Oscar nominations in 2009 for the handsome historical drama The Last Station.
With so much talent in front of and behind the camera, what could possibly go wrong? Everything, it seems, because Hoffman's reworking is an unmitigated mess. Firth loses his trousers for a protracted centrepiece sequence at the five-star Savoy hotel in London but Gambit loses its way well before then, wheezing and spluttering from one clumsy gag to the next.
Mild-mannered art curator Harry Deane (Firth) grows tired of the constant bullying of his obscenely wealthy boss, Lord Lionel Shabandar (Alan Rickman).
So he concocts an elaborate swindle to teach his employer a lesson.
With the help of loyal friend and forger The Major (Courtenay), Harry travels to Texas to befriend rodeo queen PJ Puznowski (Cameron Diaz) and her tobacco-spittin' grandma (Cloris Leachman).
Harry asks the blonde beauty to pose as the owner of a priceless Monet, called Haystacks At Dusk, which Shabandar is desperate to acquire as a companion canvas to the other Haystacks in his private collection.
The masterpiece is actually a fake painted by The Major, but Harry is convinced he can pull the wool over Shabandar's greedy eyes.
Thrilled by the prospect of a sizeable payoff, PJ travels to London to carry out her part of the plan and Shabandar is clearly smitten by her "invigorating lack of decorum".
However, he is less convinced by the authenticity of the painting and calls in his own expert, Zaidenweber (Stanley Tucci), which throws Harry's plan into disarray.
Gambit, too, is a shambles.
There are laughs, but they come from pity and embarrassment.
The only award Firth will be collecting is a dreaded Razzie, which salutes the worst in Hollywood film-making. "This is absurd," despairs Firth, standing half naked on the Savoy hotel ledge as he stares down on passing black cabs.
You said it, Colin.