|The Ladykillers (2004)
Starring: Tom Hanks, Irma P. Hall, Marlon Wayans, J.K. Simmons
Director: Joel and Ethan Coen
Looking to strike gold once more after last year’s hit-or-miss comedy “Intolerable Cruelty,” the Coen Brothers, known for their quirky and unconventional dark comedies, have taken a 1955 British classic and added their own trademark flavor in an attempt to create something fresh for this generation. What “The Ladykillers” ends up being, though, is a mediocre comedy with a slew of over-exaggerated performances and the same boring drabble that qualified last year’s film as an utter failure for most fans.
Tom Hanks takes a comedic turn as Professor G.H. Dorr, a charming intellectual with a penchant for reciting Edgar Allen Poe who lands on the doorstep of good-natured, church-going Marva Munson (Irma P. Hall), inquiring about her advertised room for rent. Dorr insists that he’ll use Marva’s root cellar as a rehearsal room for his renaissance chamber music ensemble, but he secretly plots to rob a casino boat by digging a tunnel to the underground office through the cellar wall.
Dorr, the group’s criminal mastermind, enlists the help of four men through a newspaper advertisement: Gawain MacSam (Marlon Wayans), the inside man; Garth Pancake (J.K. Simmona), the demolition expert; The General (Tzi Ma), the tunnel expert; and Lump Hudson (Ryan Hurst), the muscle. When they finally pull off the job, only after overcoming a series of moderately funny obstacles, Marva catches them red-handed and the group must figure out a way to silence her before she talks to the police.
Hanks delivers what at first is a pleasantly amusing performance, but Professor Dorr gradually becomes more annoying as the film progresses. Meanwhile, the other criminals keep low profiles, and we rarely get to see their lives outside of the heist. Most unsettling, though, was the contrast between the 1930s speech and lifestyles adopted by Dorr and Marva, and the film’s modern-day setting.
The religious undertones that the Coens sprinkle throughout “The Ladykillers” are welcome, if you can spot them, but they’re not enough to save this film. While the script gains some momentum during the final 30 minutes, Hollywood’s favorite brothers are left longing for their earlier days of critical acclaim and success.