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2004: Gospel rules over rap in "The Ladykillers," - CinemaDave

Mar. 24th, 2005 09:49 pm 2004: Gospel rules over rap in "The Ladykillers,"

Based on a 1950's British comedy of the same name, the previews for "The Ladykillers" were promising. The British original movie featured a cast headed by Sir Alec Guiness, Herbert Lom and a young Peter Sellers. The spirit of mirth seemed to have transfered to the ensemble cast headlined by Tom Hanks. With the location change from Britain to Southern American, box office success seemed assured. Alas the financial results have been another disappointment for the Walt Disney corporation.

In a sleepy small town near the Mississippi River, Mrs. Munson (Irma Hall) complains to the local sheriff (George Wallace) about the corrupting influence of rap music. Upon returning to her house, Mrs.Munson encounters the Professor (Tom Hanks), a verbose man in love with his own voice. The Professor seeks to rent a room and utilize her root cellar for music rehearsal. Actually the music rehearsal is a front for criminal activity in the theft of gambling money.

Not since "Odds Against Tomorrow" has there been a team of criminals that are so mismatched. Along with a martial arts expert from Vietnam and a brain damaged football player, Marlon Wayans portrays punk custodian who is the team's "inside man." J.K. Simmons is an explosive specialists who suffers from irritable bowel syndrome. Simmons and Wayans engage in a personality clash involving youth, age and the failed politics from the 1960's. Somehow, this rag tag rogue of villainy manages to perform the perfect crime, only to breakdown by human nature.

The main problem with "The Ladykillers" is that it is too long for it's own good. A potential belly laugh occurs every 15 minutes, which is few and far between. One gets the feeling that the Coen Brothers only had a rough outline of a script and wanted their actors to fill in the gaps. There are times in which Tom Hanks rambles too long. The rivalry between Simmons and Wayans is more spiteful than funny. In fact Wayans relies on a string of obscenities that becomes tired. The small payoff is when Irma Hall smites Wayans with her purse that is the wish fulfillment of many decent folk.

With "The Ladykillers" the Coen Brothers are attempting to recreate the formula from their previous movie, "O Brother Where Art Thou?" Instead of bluegrass music and a thematic homage to "Homer's Odyssey," the new movie utilizes Gospel music with literary aspirations to Edgar Allan Poe. After seeing both Coen Brothers movies, one has a feeling that both movies could have been better.

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