Susan Granger's review of "The Ladykillers" (Buena Vista/Disney)
What a disappointment! Perhaps it's because I so admire the thespian talents of Tom Hanks. Perhaps it's because I have so enjoyed the quirky, off-the-wall comedy of Ethan and Joel Coen. But I found this re-make of the 1955 Alec Guinness/Peter Sellers crime caper to be interminable.
Set in the Bible Belt, the plot revolves around a hapless band of thieves who plan to rob a Mississippi River gambling boat. "Band" is the operative word here, since Professor G. H. Dorr (Tom Hanks) rents a room from an unsuspecting churchgoer, Marva Munson (Irma P. Hall), on the pretext of rehearsing Renaissance music with his "ensemble," as he calls them, in the privacy of her root cellar. It's no coincidence that the strategic placement of this underground chamber is on a direct line to $1.6 in the boat's storage vault, separated by a few hundred yards of soft, loamy soil. His miscreant cohorts include an "insider" (Marlon Wayans), tunneling master (Tzi Ma), explosives expert (J.K. Simmons) and brain-addled muscleman (Ryan Hurst).
Screenwriters/directors Joel and Ethan Coen force desultory humor from each character, each scene. Through prosthetic teeth, Tom Hanks wraps around the flowery prose of a highly educated classicist/charlatan, but his self-conscious pontificating makes the pace ponderous, and Marlon Wayans' vulgarity quickly ceases to amuse. Only down-to-earth Irma P. Hall, with her aversion to smoking and "hippety-hop" music, captures the quirky, inherent lunacy of the entire endeavor. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "The Ladykillers" is a listless, unfocused 6. As Prof. Dorr says in ancient Aramaic, "Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin" ("You have been weighed in the balance and found wanting."). But the toe-tapping gospel soundtrack should be a keeper.
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