Funny and forgettable, The Ladykillers is a cheerfully shallow remake of the 1955 British classic about incompetent crooks trying to off an old lady. The action is shifted from London to the American South, where Professor Goldthwait Higginson Dorr (Tom Hanks) rents a room from a righteous widow (Irma P Hall) with a view to robbing the nearby casino. Murder comes to mind when she becomes a problem. Little comes to mind when remembering this film. It is neither terrible nor terrific, just... unnecessary.
The Coens are often criticised for lacking soul, an issue which appeared to have been addressed by the beautiful The Man Who Wasn't There. Sadly, this glib comedy shows about as much intelligence and depth as a gross-outer from the Farrelly brothers (Stuck On You). It's not that it isn't funny (there are probably more bellylaughs than the original), but you'll have a hard time caring about any of the stereotypes strolling through this exaggerated, insincere world.
"THE LAUGHTER RINGS A LITTLE HOLLOW"
The writer-directors have always been prone to comedy caricatures - the defence against accusations of racism being they stereotype everyone - but combine this with The Ladykillers' reliance on excessive swearing and it seems they're running out of imagination. Take the names, too - Marva Munson (Hall), Gawain MacSam (Marlon Wayans), Lump Hudson (the wasted Ryan Hurst) - designed to make you snigger, but not believe. Almost everything about the picture feels false.
This includes Hanks, as the sneaky pseudo-academic with the gift of the gab. But there is at least something infectious about the relish with which he devours the dialogue, sashaying through scenes like a charismatic cartoon character. He appears to be enjoying himself. And you may too. But the laughter rings a little hollow.