This is not the first time moviegoers have seen Tom Hanks secretly tunnel through the earth beneath a stranger's house. In 1989's The 'Burbs, a subversive comedy about eccentric criminals in a friendly suburban neighborhood, he dug his way right into an explosion that rocked the neighborhood. It happens again here, in The Ladykillers—which happens to be a subversive comedy about eccentric criminals in a friendly Bible Belt neighborhood.
But that's where the resemblances between The Ladykillers and other Tom Hanks comedies stop.
In fact, Hanks' first outing with the notoriously odd moviemaking team of Joel and Ethan Coen buttons him into a character quite unique in his repertoire—a malevolent villain. Professor G.H. Dorr is a criminal mastermind who dresses as if he has been around since the mid-1800s. He speaks with a stiff Southern accent that renders almost unintelligible his verbose and archaic grandiloquence, a style of speech that suggests he was raised on nothing but Edgar Allen Poe. Dorr fancies himself as sophisticated and highly educated, but at heart he's as rotten and empty-headed as the rest of the Coen Brothers' big screen thieves. His method is to organize a team of "experts" who will carry out the hard work of the crime while he rocks back in a chair and quotes poetry or, when things go wrong, mutters things like, "How very irregular."
Marva Munson (Irma P. Hall), Dorr's latest target, is a no-nonsense Southern Baptist widow who isn't about to let the house of her deceased husband be tarnished by tenants who smoke cigarettes—or who listen to that awful "hippity-hop music." When she's not knitting and talking to her husband's rather expressive portrait, she's down at the local police station ...1
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