The Ladykillers

no immediate star review.

I'm sort of torn about Joel and Ethan Coen's The Ladykillers. Part of me genuinely likes the movie; the twisted sense of humor, the (somewhat absurd) denouement, Tom Hanks. Another part of me recognizes that it's slight, virtually nonexistent plot is padded out with wild caricatures instead of characters, and that almost as much of the movie doesn't work as does. Let's take it bit by bit:

The Good -

Tom Hanks: Ever the curious exception to the rule, Hanks will do a run of family friendly pap, and with little provocation will jump into cahoots with strange little projects that are poorly received (The Burbs, Joe vs The Volcano) When I heard he was working with the Coens, there was little concern on my part. They are, after all, largely responsible (along with Steven Sodebergh and Robert Rodriguez) for bringing George Clooney back from the abyss of crap like The Peacemaker. Hanks invests every bizarre peccadillo into Professor G.H. Dorr, and watching him dig into this character is in itself a riot.

Cameo work by Bruce Campbell, Stephen Root, and George Wallace: Little things that make the Coen movies so fun. Sure, there's no Buscemi this time out, not even John Tuturro, but Coen-like flourishes are what make their movies almost a genre unto itself.

Irma P. Hall: WIthout Hall, Hanks would have nothing to work with. As the straight woman of the piece (who's anything but) she anchors the film and gives everyone something to react to. And the disdain for "hippity hop", or, more specifically, "I Left My Wallet in El Segundo" by a Tribe Called Quest.

The Bad -

The rest of the cast: Normally, I'm as big a J.K. Simmons fan as you'll find. He's a pitch perfect J. Jonah Jameson, and had a small but memorable role in O Brother. But here he's working with nothing better than fart jokes. And bad fart jokes at that. Marlon Wayans has a little more to do, and to be fair, he isn't as grating as usual, but being the character known for nonstop profanity is a little one note. Of course, the rest of the crooks (Ryan Hurst, Tzi Ma) have even less to do, and their moments to shine are accordingly lackluster.

The Pacing: This movie seems like it's over in no time, and while some might look at that as a good thing, I felt cheated. Yes, the plot is slight, the tension is basically nonexistent, but there was nothing to really lock on to while watching it. The Ladykillers is so schizophrenic that when it does end you wonder what the hell you just did.

The Fact that You Can Rent the REAL Ladykillers: In the scope of remakes, this isn't the worst, but it can't hold a candle to the original. Something about the british sensiblity is lost in americanizing it (i realize how obvious the previous statement is, but nevertheless) and while I loved Hanks in the movie, he's no Alec Guinness. Or even Peter Sellers, who was on screen for the first time in the original Ladykillers.

So, where are we? ratings, right. let's do this three ways.

As a Coen Brothers Movie: It ranks above Intolerable Cruelty, but just barely. This is lower end Coens. 2 stars

As a remake: It's better than Psycho or Shaft. Even better than The Planet of the Apes. But it's no Scarface, or even Willard. 2.5 stars

As a Hanks/Hall showcase: Here, as the only movie in its category, does it truly shine. 3.5 stars.