The Ladykillers

"Weak"

The Ladykillers Review


The Coen Brothers flopped with last year's comedically clumsy and questionably hammy "Intolerable Cruelty," and now that they have repeated and amplified the same arched-performance mistakes in "The Ladykillers," I am beginning to understand what it is about Joel and Ethan's movies that their detractors dislike so much.

The characters in the Coens' recent comedies have frequently been oblivious to the world beyond their whimsical capers, and in these last two pictures even the protagonists have become objects for audience ridicule, making them poor surrogates for getting us involved in their stories.

Tom Hanks takes that bullet in this loose remake of a 1955 British laffer about a band of crooks inadvertently foiled by the little old landlady who rents them a room. All toothy, affected mannerisms and blabbering balderdash as the endlessly loquacious supposed mastermind of the criminal enterprise, his character is nothing but caricature -- an over-educated, old-fashioned, pocket-watch-and-hankie type Southern gentleman who goes by the tongue-tying moniker of Professor Goldthwait Higginson Dorr, Ph.D.

He and his band of equally eccentric reprobates pose as classical musicians who want to rehearse in the root cellar of the house where Dorr has secured room and board from a church-going, gospel-singing, small-town Mississippi widow (Irma P. Hall). Of course, what they really want to do is tunnel from her basement into the nearby vault of a riverboat casino operation.

But only lip service is paid to this heist (courtesy of Dorr, whose floridly erudite yammering soon inspires one to tune him out), as the Coen brothers are far more interested in milking the foibles and idiosyncrasies of their cast of lowbrow clowns. They include Marlon Wayans as a bellicose, foul-mouthed thug with mommy issues, R.K. Simmons ("Spider-Man") as a demolition expert with irritable bowel syndrome (bathroom emergencies and cartoonish facial contortions abound), Tzi Ma ("The Quiet American") as a retired Vietnamese soldier of fortune with a Hitler mustache, and Ryan Hurst as Lump, an inept football player and their very low-IQ muscle man.

The film has its moments of cleverness, like Lump's introduction -- a first-person view from inside his football helmet as he's repeatedly tackled and his legs fly over his head. But the plot is all incidents and incidentals (how will the "musicians" get out of playing for Hall's ladies' church club?) with very little natural flow, and many awkward moments as the Coens spend a lot of energy building to laughs that stumble off the screen earning at best listless smiles.

"The Ladykillers" opens well with an amusing shot from the head of a gargoyle on a Mississippi River bridge, overlooking barges as they deliver trash to an island dump in the delta (which will come into play later as the film's one good running gag).

The movie is golden for its first ten minutes or so as the dry and droll, barrel-bodied Hall ("Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil," HBO's "Soul Food") launches into its one great performance as the landlady -- a Bible-quoting, "Yes Ma'am"-demanding, white-glove and Sunday-hat-wearing, Black Southern Baptist spitfire who makes a scene in the town's quiet sheriff's office signing out a long-winded complaint about the "hippity hop" music of her neighbor's teenage son.

"You know what they call colored people in those songs?" she demands, shaking a righteous finger in the air and shaking her plump figure like it came out of a Jell-O mold. "That boy's hanging by a thread over the pit!"

She then waddles home on her bowed legs to write donation checks to Bob Jones University (enamored with its religion, ignorant of its racism) and talk to the portrait of her dead husband (which gets a few laughs of its own with cut-away shots of its changed expressions as the crazier plot points unfold).

But when Hanks turns up on her doorstep, his puffed-up introductions juxtaposed by ominous chords playfully running through the score, Hall becomes regulated to comic relief (by, say, repeatedly slapping Wayans for cursing in her house) from the larger comic failures.

As they did with their similarly -- but far more fluently and effectually -- screwy 2000 comedy "O Brother, Where Art Thou?," the Coens have plied this film with a lively soundtrack that may well out-gross the movie (then it was old-timey bluegrass, this time it's hand-clapping gospel). But unlike the soundtrack -- and unlike "O Brother," which inspired you to root for its daft prison-escapee criminal heroes -- "The Ladykillers" just doesn't have any soul.



The Ladykillers

Facts and Figures

Run time: 104 mins

In Theaters: Friday 26th March 2004

Box Office USA: $39.7M

Distributed by: Buena Vista Pictures

Production compaines: The Rank Organisation, Ealing Studios

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 55%
Fresh: 102 Rotten: 85

IMDB: 6.2 / 10

Cast & Crew

Starring: as Professor Marcus, as Claude (alias 'Major Courtney'), as Louis (alias 'Mr. Harvey'), as Harry (alias 'Mr. Robinson'), Katie Johnson as Mrs. Wilberforce, as "One-Round" (im Deutschen „Pfannkuchen“) alias 'Mr. Lawson', as The superintendent

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Free State of Jones Movie Review

Free State of Jones Movie Review

Since its true story is still so timely after some 150 years, we can forgive...

Deepwater Horizon Movie Review

Deepwater Horizon Movie Review

This reunion of actor Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg feels like a natural successor...

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children Movie Review

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children Movie Review

Ransom Riggs' bestselling novel is appropriately adapted into a movie by Tim Burton, the gothic...

Get Back Movie Review

Get Back Movie Review

Roger Appleton's documentary 'Get Back' looks into the music scene that come out of Liverpool....

Imperium Movie Review

Imperium Movie Review

First-time filmmaker Daniel Ragussis takes an unusual approach to this thriller. Since it's based on...

The Girl With All the Gifts Movie Review

The Girl With All the Gifts Movie Review

Like a 10-years-later follow-up to 28 Days Later, this small British thriller takes a refreshingly...

The Magnificent Seven Movie Review

The Magnificent Seven Movie Review

Director Antoine Fuqua brings his usual fascination with violence to this remake of the iconic...

Advertisement
Bridget Jones's Baby Movie Review

Bridget Jones's Baby Movie Review

As it's been 12 years since the last Bridget Jones movie, expectations aren't too high...

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years Movie Review

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years Movie Review

A-list director Ron Howard worked with the surviving Beatles to assemble this engaging documentary, which...

Blair Witch Movie Review

Blair Witch Movie Review

It's been 17 years since The Blair Witch Project shook up the cinema and created...

Anthropoid Movie Review

Anthropoid Movie Review

Outside the Czech Republic, few people know about Operation Anthropoid, a spy mission in 1943...

Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review

Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review

From Laika (The Boxtrolls), this is one of the most beautiful, sophisticated animated films in...

Captain Fantastic Movie Review

Captain Fantastic Movie Review

An offbeat comedy-drama with a timely kick, this charming family road trip takes on some...

Hell or High Water Movie Review

Hell or High Water Movie Review

Sicario screenwriter Taylor Sheridan delivers another fiercely intelligent, engaging story that maintains high suspense while...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.