An eccentric, if not charming Southern professor and his crew pose as a band in order to rob a casino, all under the nose of his unsuspecting landlord: a sharp old woman.
Tom Hanks, playing Dr. G. H. Dorr, a Mississippi classics professor whose true vocation is crime, seizes the chance to play a comic villain with almost indecent vaudevillian glee in this uneven, prankish caper comedy by Joel and Ethan Coen. His endless stream of nonsensical erudition is matched by Irma P. Hall's no-nonsense righteousness. With stereotype-smashing gusto, she plays Marva Munson, a pious African-American widow whose house Dorr uses as a staging ground for his heist of a riverboat casino. The heist plot is mighty tired, and the Coens don't really bother to revive it. Instead, they confect an uneven shaggy-dog joke, with a handful of pricelessly funny moments (some courtesy of J. K. Simmons and Marlon Wayans, as two of Dr. Dorr's criminal confederates) and a splendid and sublime gospel soundtrack. — A. O. Scott
2004-03-26 | A. O. Scott | Read the New York Times Review of The Ladykillers