“The Ladykillers” is a character-driven comedy that derives its laughs from the conflicting personalities of its diverse characters. The Coen Brothers have modernized the dull 1955 British film while preserving the old-fashioned feel by placing the story in New Orleans. This would seem like the worst script in the world if you isolated the dialogue of any individual character, but the conversations that develop between the characters creates the perfect storm of comedy. Lump’s dumb jock confusion and The General’s rare, intense one-sentence contributions are contrasted by the legitimacy of Goldthwaite’s highly educated commentary, while the stereotypical foul mouth of the hotheaded janitor creates inevitable conflict with Mr. Pancake’s perpetual awkwardness. I knew that this was going to be a great film from the first mention of “hippity-hop music,” but that is just the beginning. The story itself is rather clever as it gathers a group that would never interact in the real world to pull off a heist, and then allowing each to part ways with a handsome sum of money. On top of it, the use of the trash barge as foreshadowing and the concept of stealing insured money is pretty advanced for a comedy. The true treat lies in the acting as each character is over-the-top, sometimes to the level of a cartoon character. Tom Hanks is the main attraction. Those who are educated in the arts will actually follow his constant flow of Renaissance period explanations and Hanks’ insertion of that odd laugh into his soft-spoken monologues just left a smile on my face the entire time. Of course, J.K. Simmons is my favorite with the most over-the-top performance in the film (Mr. Pancake). The ridiculousness of his very existence escalates throughout the entire film from Mountain Girl to IBS to every time that he says “Easiest thing in the world.” The 70-year-old Irma Hall’s blissful ignorance, intolerance for youth, and love of Bob Jones University creates some great running gags while Marlon Wayans delivers some great lines, particularly involving the Waffle Hut. The charm of New Orleans and the idiocy of this motley crew combine for an awesome heist comedy whose characters will keep you laughing for days.
[Pictured: The least-likely crew to be having a Renaissance instrument rehearsal]