The original Ladykillers, a dark comedy about an ill-fitting confederacy of thieves whose plans for an elaborate heist is foiled by an elderly landlady, was set in London in the Fifties and starred Sir Alec Guiness and Peter Sellers. Though updated by the Coen Brothers to reflect contemporary times, the new version follows the first's plotline fairly closely.
However, it now takes place in present-day Mississippi and arrives heavily-laden with Christian and African-American themes. The story is centered around bible-thumping Marva Munson (Irma P. Hall), a widow who unwittingly rents a room out to Professor G.H. Dorr(Tom Hanks), an overly polite Southern gent and ringleader of a gang planning to rob a riverboat gambling casino.
Dorr's partners in crime includes Gawain MacSam (Marlon Wayans) a crass, gangsta' rap poser, along with a host other colorful characters. The irrepressible Marva doesn't suffer fools lightly, which doesn't bode well for goofy 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 to his dress to his slanguage and cursing.
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 worth it for the spirituals alone. Some might be put off by the flickâ€™s sick sense of humor, but only those unfamiliar with such Coen farces as O Brother, The Big Lebowski and Fargo. So, despite cartoonish characters and indulging over-the-top hijinks, the film succeeds in delivering the requisite number of laughs to remain well-recommended.
The DVD includes a slap reel of granny slapping Marlon, deleted gospel numbers, and a feature about the man behind the band.
Very Good (3 stars)
Rated R for profanity and sexual references.