Ebert:1/2 Rolling Stone: TV Guide:1/2
minor plot points revealed!
I'll start this review by saying that I knew this film was poorly rated before I saw it and I went anyway because I needed to kill time after Hellboy while I was waiting to sneak into Walking Tall. My theory is that as long as I'm not paying for it I can't really complain. My expectations were low and the movie did nothing to raise them. It was worth watching once, and that's all I'll say about that for now.
The other reason I saw it is that despite the reviews I have to give all Coen brother's movies at least one viewing. These are the guys who started their career in the 1980's with the great film Blood Simple. Then continued with the masterwork, Raising Arizona. Finally winning the Oscar in 1996 for Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen with Fargo. This seems to be where they peaked as film makers. Their last few offerings have been hit or miss and none have resonated with me. But for a time, they were something.
The Ladykillers is a remake of the 1955 British comedy of the same name. Alec Guinness and Peter Sellers starred in the original. This time it's Tom Hanks. The story tells the tale of a gang of misfits who infiltrate the home of an old lady and use her basement to tunnel into the counting room of a nearby casino riverboat. Each of the gang is a cartoonish stereotype and amusing though not necessarily funny. Hanks plays Professor G.H. Dorr, mastermind of the gang and supposedly a professor of Latin and Greek who speaks with a southern accent and a verbose ornamental style. His gang include a demolitions expert, a Viet Cong General and tunnel builder, a local muscled but retarded footballer, and a hip hop janitor from the riverboat casino. The story then follows as this gang of goof-ups employ their skills and commit their crime while trying to steer clear of the little old lady of the house.
I don't want my opinion to scare people away from the film. This isn't my kind of comedy but it will appeal to some. I think my father for example, who is a professional clown, would enjoy the broad slapstick style. The movie plays like a Tom and Jerry cartoon. The audiences in 1955 were probably in rolling in the aisles. I like physical comedy sometimes but this was to superficial.
The actors all do fine but I've seen them all do better. I think the credibility of the Coen's entices. Tom Hanks has obviously been in better films. He does great with this character, as always, but it's just not enough. J.K. Simmons plays Garth Pancake the demolitions expert. Because I'm used to seeing him as Dr. Emil Skoda on TV's Law & Order it was impossible to believe his goofy character. Marlon Wayans was funny but his character was to broad and stereotypical as well. The only other actor worth mentioning was Irma P. Hall as the old lady and she was funny but the role was not unique enough to be remembered.
Anyway, if you're a fan of the original movie you'll probably want to see the remake. If you think it's funny when something drops on someone's head and they fall down you will also like this movie. I hope the Coen brother's pull it together and head back to their film-making roots but I will always give them a chance regardless.