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(1998) (Dan Futterman, Stuart Townsend) (PG)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
Minor *Minor Heavy Minor None
Mild None Minor None Moderate
Smoking Tense Family
Topics To
Talk About
Mild Mild None Mild Minor

Comedy: Two men continually swindle and con the rich so that they can eventually buy an estate home.
Dylan (DAN FUTTERMAN), a slick, American born salesman, and Jez (STUART TOWNSEND), a British born techno-geek, are two con artists with similar aspirations. Both have longed for a fancy estate home ever since childhood. After having met in London as adults where they discovered they could make more money jointly conning people than actually holding down regular jobs, the two have made a career out of "shooting fish."

That is, they devise cons that take money from both rich individuals and corporations so easily that it's like shooting fish in a barrel. While Dylan devises and fronts the schemes, Jez technically makes them possible. In their latest con, where they're selling faked speech recognition computers, they've hired Georgie (KATE BECKINSALE), a sweet medical student, as their unknowing assistant, who slowly figures out what they're really doing.

As the two continue with their cons and near their goal of making enough money to purchase an estate home, they face a host of complications that include the authorities beginning to close in on them, and both of them falling for Georgie, all of which may derail their plans.

It's not very likely.
For thematic elements, suggestive humor and language.
Considering that the characters played by DAN FUTTERMAN and STUART TOWNSEND con people for money for their own needs, it's doubtful many parents would consider them good role models despite their pleasant and charming qualities. The same can be said for KATE BECKINSALE whose character goes along with the ruse, and after finding out the truth and momentarily being upset with them, helps them out in the end.


OUR TAKE: 4.5 out of 10
Without the rest of the commonly known phrase from which it's been stripped, the title "Shooting Fish" takes on an unknown quality. Several attendees at our screening weren't quite sure what the title meant, and therefore had no idea what kind of film they were going to see. To set matters straight and appease the animal rights folk, the movie has nothing to do pumping aquatic critters full of lead.

Instead, the title is an abbreviation of the saying, "It's as easy as shooting fish in a barrel," referring of course, to something being as simple as say, "Taking candy from a baby" (which would have made an even worse title than what headlines this film). What it's all referring to are the schemes and cons that two swindlers use during their quest to be modern day Robin Hoods.

While the film is pleasant and amusing enough on a sitcom-like level, it suffers from several mild flaws that don't entirely ruin the film, but certainly keep it from ever really taking off. Although the idea of robbing the rich to give to the poor has long been a part of literature and is noble -- if not lawful -- these guys consider themselves "the poor." Pursuing the big take and hoping to fulfill their childhood dreams of one day owning a sprawling estate, these guys go about conning those they deem can afford to lose some money.

To make up for this selfish trait, the two need to be charming or have some sort of redeeming quality for the audience to get behind them and root for their success. Although they're moderately likeable, we never become big fans of their goal and thus always watch the film from a distance. This is mainly because that goal, although cutely displayed during the film's opening when these guys were orphaned boys (at St. Mary's Orphanage of the Tortured Souls, no less), simply isn't that interesting or compelling.

There is the possibility that they may get caught, and that generates a little comic tension, but the lack of a personified antagonist creates another problem. While we "enjoy" their clever schemes at bilking the rich, we never see their victims as deserving what they get, and thus we don't get any pleasure out of seeing them being duped. Had we known something more about them, or had seen that they were bad people or corporations (burning down the rain forests, or laying off employees in profitable times, etc...) then we'd enjoy them getting their just comeuppance. In addition and by doing so, we'd then root for the main characters by default.

The bigger problem, however, is that for this mildly entertaining comedy, it's just not that funny. Sure there are a few moments such as a fun chase through the connecting attics of homes whose owners the guys are trying to swindle with the same set of insulation, and a brief poking at Andrew Lloyd Webber with a play entitled "Dogs" (where nearly everyone is asleep midway through the production), but they never elicit much laughter.

Instead, we mostly get moments such as Dylan making potential corporate buyers sing out the kids' song, "I'm a little teapot, short and stout..." to train a voice recognition computer, the guys living in a wackily decorated and refurbished huge gas tank, and the trio listening to and singing "What the world needs now, is love, sweet, love..." Such moments are cute, but certainly not uproarious, and that's exactly the type of humor this sort of film needs to be successful.

Fortunately, the film's saving grace is its trio of personable, charismatic performers. Dan Futterman ("The Birdcage") perfectly fits the bill as the slick, but likeable con man, while Stuart Townsend ("Trojan Eddie") plays the more sympathetic geek character. Kate Beckinsale ("Much Ado About Nothing") rounds out the trio as the perky, but fatigued medical student who uncovers their rouse, but ultimately helps them succeed.

While there's certainly nothing horrendously wrong with this little picture, it's just a shame that it's not any funnier and doesn't elicit a more favorable response from the audience. Destined to be one of those little seen and quickly forgotten films, it might have shone had its humor been taken to a more outrageous level. As it stands, it's only mildly entertaining with a few humorous moments. We give "Shooting Fish" a 4.5 out of 10.

It's doubtful many kids will want to see this film, but here's a quick look at its content anyway. Profanity ranks as a moderate with 10+ "s" words and an assortment of religious terms used as exclamations. The guys have several blow up sex dolls, but they don't ever use them in any sort of sexual manner, although there are some minor bits of unrelated sexual humor. Of course the guys have bad attitudes (in a comic fashion) since they con people and corporations out of money not to give to others, but for their own purposes. Beyond that, the rest of the categories don't have any major objectionable behavior, but you many want to take a quick look through the content should someone in your home wish to see this film.

  • Dylan has a daydream where he sees Georgie sipping champagne.
  • A guy in a bar drinks.
  • The guys and Georgie celebrate with champagne and we see Georgie drinking some while they drive away.
  • Although neither bloody nor gory, we do see Dylan sitting on a toilet and straining as he tries to pass a key he's previously swallowed. Later, Jez feeds Dylan lots of beans, and we then hear his bowels gurgling and rumbling.
  • Although it's presented in a comic manner, Dylan and Jez con people and corporations for money (in several different ruses) so that they can finally buy or build their massive dream house. Although they claim that they're modern day Robin Hood's, the people they're stealing from aren't portrayed as bad and not exceedingly wealthy, plus they're using the money for themselves. Even so, they are eventually caught and serve time in jail.
  • Dylan and Jez lie to Georgie about the above by saying that they'll be giving the money to orphans.
  • Some guys bust Dylan and Jez's car window and steal Georgie's bag.
  • Dylan lies about having tickets and not getting into a play to get some free ones, and purposefully causes his phone line to crackle (while talking to the phone company) so as not be charged for the calls he just made.
  • Dylan and Jez steal the van owned by the guy who broke into their vehicle and later use it to frame him for one of their con jobs. Later, Jez breaks into this guy's place and pulls some pranks on him while the guy's not home.
  • Georgie's fiancÚ sells her family's home (with the help of their lawyer) before she has a chance to buy it back.
  • Dylan briefly refers to people with Down's syndrome as "loonies," but quickly apologizes.
  • The guys help a jockey cheat to win a horse race.
  • There are a few comically tense scenes such as when Jez is caught by a neighbor after breaking into a guy's house and tries to get away from this man and his dog.
  • None.
  • Phrases: "Brat," "Sucks," "Bastards," "Schmuck" and "Buggered."
  • The movie may give some kids the idea of trying to con people in similar ways. For instance, the guys steal a van and return it several days later. The owner then finds a note with an apology and a set of theater tickets for the "inconvenience." Of course Jez then breaks into the guy's house while he's at the theater.
  • Jez calls up a long distance, international clock phone number to rack up a guy's phone bill.
  • Dylan and Jez swallow their keys to their locked safe and suitcases (that hold their money).
  • None.
  • There's just a bit of comically tense music in the movie.
  • None.
  • At least 13 "s" words and 8 uses of "Oh God," 2 uses each of "God" and "Christ," and 1 use each of "G-damn," "For Christ's sakes," "My God" and "Jesus Christ" as exclamations.
  • Dylan tells a pretty woman, "Can I introduce you to my Johnson?" (It's a double entendre as that's the name of the fake computer they're trying to sell).
  • Dylan tells Jez, "Relax. Don't think virgin Madonna. Think Madonna Madonna."
  • The guys comment that Georgie is pretty and has nice "stand up" breasts.
  • The guys have several blow up sex dolls complete with bare rubber breasts and open mouths and we see them in several scenes (but they aren't used in a sexual fashion).
  • Moving in to kiss Georgie, Dylan says, "I want to pleasure you with my tongue." Not surprisingly, she leaves on that note.
  • Georgie's fiancÚ comments that his race horse's sperm will be worth "...two hundred thousand a spurt."
  • Dylan smokes several times while other minor or background people also smoke.
  • None.
  • Conning people and the fact that these characters, despite serving some prison time (3 months), got away with their deeds and lived happily ever after.
  • Some guys bust Dylan and Jez's car window and steal Georgie's bag.
  • Dylan and Jez get into a fake fight in jail and then purposefully run into a large inmate and Dylan then leaps onto him, trying to get him to fight them (so that they can go to the infirmary from where they can more easily escape), but he won't.
  • Dylan smacks Jez.
  • The guys return home to find that their place has been ransacked.
  • Georgie's fiancÚ punches another man in the face.

  • Reviewed April 23, 1998

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