Joel and Ethan Coen have teamed up with Tom Hanks to remake the 1955 classic “The Ladykillers” (Touchstone Pictures). The comedy tells the story of charlatan professor Goldthwait Higginson Dorr, Ph.D (Hanks), and his attempt at an extravagant casino heist that he hopes will make him and his fellow criminals very wealthy. After placing an ad in the paper, Higginson assembles a group of mismatched men to perform the deed. All of their meetings take place under the roof of an unsuspecting, church-going old lady, Mrs. Munson (Irma P. Hall). In order to use her home as headquarters, the quirky bunch must pose as musicians who need her basement to practice their church music.
In the opening sequence of “The Ladykillers,” provides the audience with a glimpse of the film’s technical achievements, and the Southern Bible Belt town where the movie takes place has an animated feel to it, giving the film a goofy and lighthearted tone from the start. It is refreshing to see Hanks in a film unlike any he has done in more than a decade, and the variety of the cast of characters makes for amusing interactions.
Besides Hanks, the group includes the “inside man” who works as a janitor at the casino (Marlon Wayans), the nerdy expert in explosions named Garth Pancake (J. K. Simmons), an intimidating General (Tzi Ma) and a dumb jock named Lump (Ryan Hurst). When the “unsuspecting” old lady begins to suspect something, the team must figure out a way to finish their plan successfully.
Unfortunately, the interesting ensemble of veteran actors cannot tackle the slow pace of this film. The laughs don’t last further than the introduction of the film’s characters, and this becomes a bigger problem when the comedy turns dark. When the humor gets twisted, the “comedic” moments are awkwardly depressing.
It’s always difficult to remake a classic, and “The Ladykillers” clearly demonstrates the difficulty of this endeavor. A product of talented filmmakers and actors, the film is just not funny enough. Everyone involved seems to be doing the best he can, but the cast and crew deliver a disappointment.