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For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.

photo caption:
AN UNLIKELY GANG OF 'LADYKILLERS': Lump Hudson (Ryan Hurst, left, Professor G. H. Dorr (Tom Hanks), Gawain Mac Sam (Marlon Wayans), and The General (Tzi Ma) gather in the professor's landlady's kitchen to discuss their nefarious plot.
end caption.


"The Ladykillers": Hanks Heads Ensemble Cast in Coen Bros. Remake

Review by Kam Williams

In these days, when directors complain about the dearth of quality screenplays, if you're going to remake a movie it makes sense to pick one which landed an Academy Award nomination for best original script. Such is the case with The Ladykillers, written in 1955 by the legendary Billy Rose, a four-time nominee who also authored It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming (1966) and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967).

The original, set in London and starring Sir Alec Guiness and Peter Sellers, was a dark comedy about a confederacy of thieves whose plans for an elaborate heist is discovered by its leader's elderly landlady. Before she can divulge their secret, they take turns trying to kill her, though fate always seems to have something else in mind.

Updated to reflect the times by the Oscar-winning team of Ethan and Joel Coen (Fargo), the new version follows the first Ladykillers' plotline fairly closely. However, it now takes place in present-day Mississippi and arrives heavily-laden with Christian and African-American themes. The film is centered around Marva Munson (Irma P. Hall), a bible-thumping widow who rents a room to an overly polite Southern gent named Professor G.H. Dorr (Tom Hanks).

The professor is the ringleader of a quintet of co-conspirators planning to rob a riverboat gambling casino by digging from Marva's basement to a vault housed in the building next door. Dorr's partners in crime include Gawain MacSam (Marlon Wayans), Lump Hudson (Ryan Hurst), The General (Tzi Ma), and Garth Pancake.

Grounded by an earthy gospel soundtrack, in much the same way that O Brother, Where Art Thou was driven by bluegrass tunes, The Ladykillers is enjoyable for its soulful spirituals alone.

Marva doesn't suffer fools lightly, which doesn't bode well for Gawain. This pair find themselves often at odds, with the elderly granny getting the best of every exchange, as she objects to everything from his music, his dress, and his cursing.

Marva is at her best bemoaning the state of contemporary black culture, as represented by the "hippity-hoppers," as she calls them. As she observes, it's been more than 30 years since the passing of Martin Luther King, yet they refer to their own people by the N-word.

Despite cartoonish characters, over-the-top hijinks, and occasional lapses of bad taste, any movie that leaves you laughing up the aisle, has to remain well-recommended.

Very Good (3 stars). Rated R for profanity and sexual references.

end of review.

For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.


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