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Good guy Hanks impresses as a bad guy

Jacqueline Pimentel-Gannon | Wednesday, April 7, 2004

From the makers of “O Brother, Where art Thou?” and “The Big Lebowski” comes the caper comedy “The Ladykillers.” The Coen brothers are sure to delight moviegoers that enjoy heist films and Tom Hanks fans alike with this remake of the 1955 comedy starring Alec Guinness.Hanks stars as professor Goldthwait Higginson Dorr, a classics professor who turns to crime. Dorr arrives at the house of widow Marva Munson (Irma Hall) and rents a room under the guise of needing the root cellar for practices with his classical music ensemble. The ensemble is really his team of crooks – a ridiculously cacophonous collection of men. There is a dumb football player (Ryan Hurst), the Vietnamese general (Tzi Ma), a demolition expert named Mr. Pancake (J.K. Simmons) and inside man Gawain MacSam (Marlon Wayans).Hanks has masterminded a plan to rob a riverboat casino by digging a tunnel from Munson’s basement to the casino’s vault. Surprisingly, the theft turns out to be the easy part of the adventure, even though there are several close calls with Munson coming downstairs to check on the guys. The real problem arises when an accidental explosion leads to Munson seeing the money. After some deliberation, the band of thieves decides the best way to handle this situation is to kill off the poor old landlady. This idea proves to be a harder task than first imagined and leads to an entirely amusing comedy of errors that concludes in an unexpected fashion.”Ladykillers” affords Hanks his first opportunity to play a true villain. He excels at the part. His facial hair and fake teeth help make him appear different, but it is his accent and laugh that are most distinguishing. They are at first quite charming, but grow tiresome, and the odd laugh is overused and slightly annoying by the end.It is easy to forget that “Ladykillers” takes place in the present time period. Dorr’s proper attire, Munson’s dresses and the décor of her house and the town are more reminiscent of the South of the 1960’s than today and contrast sharply with the more modern gold chain of MacSam and crisp suit of the general.The scenery occasionally leaves something to be desired. A high school production’s backdrops are more impressive than the flat, two-dimensional sheriff’s office façade. Yet there is great use of a stone carving that appears in the introduction of the movie and then again near the end. The music is wonderful, mixing gospel music and classical pieces with “hippety-hop” songs, as Mrs. Munson refers to them.From bathroom humor, to long bursts of profanity, to the use of racial terms, “Ladykillers” offers something to offend many different types of people. Even the most compassionate person will have a difficult time not laughing through the barrage of fatalities late in the movie. There is no need to feel bad about cracking up through Pancake and MacSam’s hilarious bouts of insults because everyone ends up getting his due by the end of the film.Though the plot of “Ladykillers” moves along slowly until the last quarter of the movie, it is nonetheless entertaining. It provides a nice rest from the fast-paced caper movies that require the audience to pay close attention. See “Ladykillers” if you are looking for some laughs and a fun, mindless way to spend 104 minutes.