Movie Poster
The Ladykillers
Ethan & Joel Coen
Tom Hanks, Marlon Wayans, J.K. Simmons, Irma Hall, Tzi Ma
104 min.


Used to be, in order to hide our shame for being Minnesotan, we'd constantly remind people that both Prince and the Coen brothers make MN their home. Well, this is the worst movie the Coens have ever been a part of: a throughly, crushingly unnecessary remake of a classic british film. Bad enough to sap the Coen name of any beneficial associational value. And Prince, it turns out, is 4'11". Which is creepy.

Tom Hanks inhabits the Alec Guiness role with his trademark mix of bombast and soullessness. The supporting characters are uniformly uninteresting, each of them having been carefully whittled down to one identifiable trait; more like an episode of Enterprise than a movie. And a Coen movie? These guys used to have characters coming out of their noses. Chet, the bellhop from Barton Fink, who has no more than half a dozen lines (most of which he spends repeatedly exlaining that his name is "Chet"), was a more fully formed character than any in the Ladykillers.

The plot is the same as in the original, in that the same events happen in roughly the same order. But they happen over a longer time, made gruellingly apparent by the fact that in remaking it they managed, independently, to suck both the suspense and the humor out of the story. This is a shock because the Coens' forte has always been humorous dialogue. Even the (undeservedly) much maligned Intolerable Cruelty was, at the very least, funny. Very funny. Consistently funny. The Ladykillers has fewer good lines than Chet did, almost exclusively front-loaded into the first five minutes.

Maybe the Coens expected the soundtrack to carry the film. The only real difference this bears the original, aside from the badness, is its setting (and all the little things inherent to that change). After the (again, undeserved) box-office failure of Intolerable Cruelty, they must have decided to ride their Deep South charicaturing to the bank, again. But where O Brother was a mediocre film with a beloved soundtrack, The Ladykillers is a bad film with a blatant attempt to recreate the fervor over the soundtrack, only this time it's gospel music. Like O Brother, there are several sequences in which the beleaguered screenplay takes five and grabs an energy drink while we sit politely and watch Mrs. Munson demonstrate her enjoyment of a southern baptist choir. Unlike O Brother, this only has two or three songs (only one of which is good) which get repeated several times each over the course of the movie.

But the movie isn't wholly unpleasant. There is a cat which is reasonably cute. And its not the kind of bad that haunts you for days. Its the kind of bad where, writing this review the following afternoon, I have trouble remembering any specific instances from within the movie itself.

But hey, you know Terry Gilliam is from Minnesota. And Joe Mauer. Neither of them are short.

Pat Jackson