A Film Review By The Mike
Rating:RATED R for Hippity-Hop Language
Starring: Tom Hanks, Irma P. Hall, Marlon Wayans
Directed By: Joel & Ethan Coen
Expectations can ruin many a movie. The Ladykillers is a perfect example of a film that could fall prey to them. Directed by the brothers Coen, the masters of the quirky, and starring Tom Hanks, who shed his comedic talents a decade ago in favor of more “substantial” works; this remake of the 1955 film of the same name was up for scrutinization by many from the first moment its trailers were released. So, deciphering whether or not the film will please most is a hard task for me to undertake.
The Ladykillers is a comic tale centered around Professor Goldthwait Higginson Dorr, PHD, played by Hanks. He’s not a Professor or a Doctor however…he’s a criminal mastermind. No criminal mastermind would be complete without his team, and the Professor has formed a great one. Gawain MacSam (Marlon Wayans) is the “inside man”, Lump (Ryan Hurst) is the ex football player who’s had a few too many concussions, The General (Tzi Ma) is in charge of tunneling, and Garth Pancake (J.K. Simmons) is the explosives “expert”. Unfortunately, they’ve run into a foe unlike any other.
That foe is Miss Marva Munson, played by Irma P. Hall. Dorr and associates rent a room from her, and use her cellar for their “rehearsals.” Of course, Miss Munson, and her cat, Pickles, are soon on to the group’s activities, and a battle of wits ensues.
Hanks and Hall play off each other perfectly, in two great comedic performances. Hanks seems to be playing a combination of Colonel Sanders and Vincent Price, with some extremely memorable moments, mostly coming from his facial expressions. Hall is a perfectly serene presence as Miss Munson, yet we still believe her strength over the men when she exerts it. The other cast members all do their jobs well, with Simmons’ Garth Pancake (You’ll have to excuse me for repeating these character names so much, they’re simply too much fun to let go.) and Ma’s General providing many great laughs. There are many truly great gags that reminded me of one of my favorite comedies, Frank Capra’s Arsenic & Old Lace, at least in their slapstick and obvious nature. Yeah, they’re obvious jokes….but we still laugh at them nonetheless.
The script, though inspired, could have used a little more work. There’s a lot of trouble keeping the tone in the first couple of reels, and a few gags that are overused (particularly Garth Pancakes’ bowels). But, it rights itself in the final act, once the team has committed their crime, and builds to a satisfying and proper finale.
I’ve heard many express surprise that the Coens were involved in this project, after viewing the trailer. Rest assured, the comedy is not as mainstream as the trailer made it seem, and those looking for a normal comedy will be out of luck. This is a Coen brothers film, and that’s evident in the direction, the writing, and even the music. It’s not one of their more ambitious endeavors, but it works all the same.
In the end, The Ladykillers was a comedy that thrilled me in every shot with its quirky nature and Hanks’ hammy showboating. I can’t promise it will have the same effect on all, but if you’re up for a film that’s definitely not in line with your usual multiplex blockbuster comedy, it’ll probably work for you. But if you go in looking for a film with less blatant humor, you will be watching a film that is funny….and yet….not funny.