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Thursday, March 25, 2004 03:32 pm

Movie Review

The Ladykillers

Hanks shines in Coens' remake of The Ladykillers

While it doesn't reach the heights of inspired lunacy of their classic Raising Arizona, the Coen Brothers' remake of The Ladykillers delivers plenty of chuckles, albeit of the darkest variety. The film takes some time to hit its stride, but ultimately delivers a wonderfully comic and morally just ending.

Ladykillers stars Tom Hanks as Professor G.H. Dorr, a simpering Southern gentleman whose style of clothing, way of speech and sense of perverse gallantry is at least 75 years out of date. Dorr devises a plan to tunnel into the offshore counting room of a riverboat casino, assembles a crew to help in the heist, and rents a room from Bible-thumping widow Marva Munson (Irma P. Hall). Somehow Dorr and his gang of misfits succeed and are about to reap the fruit of their labors only to be found out by their landlady.

Ladykillers boasts several memorable performances, but Hanks and Hall provide the film's spark. Hanks' Dorr is as distinctive a creation as Johnny Depp's Captain Jack from Pirates of the Caribbean. A man truly in his own world, Dorr deludes himself into thinking he's above modern society, refusing to see that it has actually left him behind. Marva, wonderfully brought to life by Hall, is off in her own world. Unlike Dorr, she's morally sound. That, in the end, proves to be the key difference between salvation and damnation.

The chemistry Hanks and Hall generate and the potency of the Coens' dark comedic vision prove to be a winning combination. While so many modern comedies attempt to generate their laughs with simplistic gross-out gags, Ladykillers works hard to get them and succeeds. There's no sense of thievery at play here between the Coens and their audience -- simply a comedy with well-earned laughs.

What other critics are saying. . .

Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London [PG] Frankie Muniz is secret agent Cody Banks on his second adventure. "Agent Cody Banks 2 may have a difficult time appealing to young girls without Hilary Duff on board." (Ed Gonzalez, Slant magazine) ShowPlace West

Dawn of the Dead [R] Flesh-eating zombies are after a nurse (Sarah Polley), a cop (Ving Rhames), and a few others who are holed up in a shopping mall. "While I'll definitely always prefer the original, the remake has earned its place in the dead series." (Joshua Tyler, ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind [R] After Joel (Jim Carrey) learns that his girlfriend Clementine (Kate Winslet) has the memories of their relationship erased, he decides to do the same. Though his memories gradually fade, he starts to remember how they first fell in love, and now he can't get her out of his mind. "A remarkable film that can coax a smile about making the same mistakes in love and then sneak up and quietly break your heart." (Peter Travers, Rolling Stone) Parkway Pointe Art

50 First Dates [PG-13] Veterinarian Henry Roth (Adam Sandler) enjoys dating women on vacation, but leaves his playboy life after he meets Lucy (Drew Barrymore). Alas, Lucy suffers from short-term memory loss, forcing Henry to woo her every day. "Entertaining? Forget about it. The film is less toxic than most Sandler vehicles, but so is anthrax." (Colin Covert, Minneapolis Star Tribune) ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East

Hidalgo [PG-13] The story of a Pony Express courier (Viggo Mortensen) who travels to Saudi Arabia to compete with his horse, Hidalgo, in a dangerous race for a massive contest prize. "Nothing kills my Viggo jones like a bad western set in the Arabian Desert.' (Jeanne Aufmuth, Palo Alto Weekly) ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East

Jersey Girl [PG-13] A music industry executive struggles to raise his young daughter on his own. "[Ben] Affleck finally scores a hit with a co-star who is nine years old." (Victoria Alexander, Parkway Pointe

Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King [PG-13] Final part of trilogy, as hobbits Frodo and Sam journey to Mount Doom in Mordor. "As a model for how to bring substance, authenticity and insight to the biggest of adventure yarns, this trilogy will not soon, if ever, find its equal." (Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times) ShowPlace West

Never Die Alone [R] Turf war erupts after a drug kingpin returns home. "There's something refreshing about a pulp drama that turns on the notion that redemption is a sucker's fantasy." (Mark Holcomb, Village Voice) Parkway Pointe

The Passion of the Christ [R] Mel Gibson's version of the last 12 hours of Jesus Christ's life. "The sacrifice Gibson's Jesus makes is purely physical. The violence to which he is subjected is portrayed to the point of being gratuitous and manipulative." (Chuck Koplinski, Illinois Times)ShowPlace East,Parkway Pointe

Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed [PG] The gang must contend with a masked villain who unleashes scary monsters in an attempt to take over Coolsville. "Doggone fun for kids (and stoners) everywhere." (Susannah Gora, Premiere magazine) ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East

Starsky & Hutch [PG-13]Two streetwise cops (Ben Stiller and Owens Wilson) bust criminals in their red-and-white Ford Torino with the help of police snitch called Huggy Bear (Snoop Dogg). Based on the '70s TV series. "Finally, the out-of-the-closet Starsky and Hutch!" (Victoria Alexander, ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East

Taking Lives [R] An FBI profiler (Angelina Jolie) is called in by French Canadian police to catch a serial killer who takes on the identity of each new victim. "Director D.J. Caruso (The Salton Sea) shows promise. But when's the last time Jolie starred in a really good movie?" (Susannah Gora, Premiere magazine) ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East

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