The Ladykillers is about a professor (Tom Hanks) who strategically takes a room in an old woman’s house in order to rob a nearby casino with the help of his zany cast of friends. Or is it about that? It’s kind of hard to tell in a movie that takes so long to establish its point only to change pace and follow a whole other storyline. While that’s a big problem, it’s not the only one.
Usually the Coen brothers juggle ensemble casts and splintering storylines very well, as in the case of this year’s Hail, Cesar!. Their movies are usually meandering, idiosyncratic journeys that fall apart and get tied back together in sometimes messy, sometimes not, satisfying little packages. They’ve developed a reputation for writing not one but multiple iconic characters in any given single film. Except, with The Ladykillers neither of those things happens. You spend virtually no time getting to know any of the characters. You don’t know why they’re there. Tom Hanks’s accent is terrible. Then, you get some weird moral lesson about greed.
It’s also supposed to be a comedy, but the jokes are half formed and not funny. Most of them are based off of racial stereotypes, some of them are bad poop jokes, and an even fewer number of them attempt to be dark comedy. It really feels like watching someone at a party trying to practice their amateur standup routine loudly and awkwardly, while everyone has long since stopped paying attention. Maybe I’m too sensitive to understand the appeal of this humor, but I feel like there’s a right way and a wrong way to make a poop joke.
The Ladykillers is a train wreck. There’s no clear story. The characters are two dimensional. And the poop jokes are bad. I guess everybody, even the Coen brothers, has to make a flop sometime.