Will Smith tries his hand at being Cary Grant in Focus · Movie Review · The A.V. Club

February 26, 2015 6:06 AM

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Will Smith tries his hand at being Cary Grant in Focus · Movie Review  · The A.V. Club

On the most basic level, the con-artist romance Focus is a Cary Grant movie in the North By Northwest or Charade mold. There’s a charismatic 6-foot-2 star who’s funny when he plays drunk (Will Smith), a love interest who’s almost young enough to be his daughter (Margot Robbie), a byzantine plot that’s never fully clarified, some travel-show-ready locations, and even a MacGuffin, which comes in the shape of a formula that makes race cars go ever so slightly faster. The thing about Cary Grant movies, though, is that they’re about 20 minutes longer than they would be if they starred anyone else, which isn’t a dig against them, but a reminder that charisma needs its own space, at least if it’s expected to carry a movie along from one scene to another. Focus’ problem isn’t that its stars lack charm, but that it’s squeezed into tight spaces between protracted explanations of setups, backstories, and twists—a poor example of the every-shot-must-convey-narrative-information school of filmmaking.

The funny thing is that writers-directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa have been here before, on their entertaining debut feature I Love You Philip Morris, about a serial fraudster who meets the love of his life in prison and then stages a series of elaborate cons and escapes to stay together. And, ...

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