The Imposters On DVD

Oliver Platt, Stanley Tucci, Elizabeth Bracco, Steve Buscemi, Billy Connolly, Allan Corduner, Hope Davis, Dana Ivey, Allison Janney, Richard Jemkins, Matt McGrath, Alfred Molina, Isabella Rossellini, Campbell Scott, Tony Shaloub, Lili Taylor. Directed by Stanley Tucci. Aspect ratio: 2.35:1 (letterboxed). Dolby Digital 5.1. 101 minutes. 1999. 20th Century Fox 4110383. R. $24.95.

After co-writing and directing the perfectly pitched Big Night, Stanley Tucci turned his sights on an almost forgotten dramatic form—the farce. The Imposters follows two out-of-work actors (Tucci and Oliver Platt) through an increasingly outlandish series of misadventures. In true farcical fashion (in other words, through circumstances too ridiculous to recount), they find themselves stowaways on a cruise ship filled with mysterious sheiks, femmes fatales, revolutionary bombers, and predatory physical-culture buffs. There is much running about, and the resulting tangled skein is marvelously resolved in the final act.

The good news is, the ship is filled to the gunwales with marvelous character actors, all of whom are up to the task of mugging and vamping their way through this material. Standouts include Lili Taylor as the spunky cruise director, Tony Shaloub as the crazed revolutionist first mate, Billy Connolly as the tennis star/physical culture fanatic, and Alfred Molina as a self-obsessed ham. Platt and Tucci carry the show, running valiantly from stateroom to stateroom, hiding under beds, and lurking in closets. But more than anything else, they're up to the task when they determine that the time has come to act!

The DVD could have a sharper image—it seems a bit dull in places—while the ship's interiors are overly lit and slightly phony-looking. Think high-ratings TV show and you've got the visual look about right. The soundtrack is mostly stereo, with occasional sounds from the surrounds, though these are few and far between.

The disc's strengths aren't its technical qualities, but its script and actors. While the timing isn't as crisp and precise as the best of the genre, it's pretty darn good. (A recurring riff actually involves slowing down the pace of crucial scenes while the two actors debate whether or not they've appeared in anything famous.)

The Imposters offers two hours of frenetic comedy and a series of hilarious bits from some of the best character actors in the business. That's enough for a thoroughly enjoyable evening.