written and directed by the Joel and Ethan Coen
A quirky comedy remake? Okay, it sounds less depressing than the current stuff out there, I thought. I needed something funny to unwind during the weekend. Odd then, that when I entered the theater, it seemed as if I had entered a comedy of my own–the audience was mostly composed of little old ladies. Maybe they were all Tom Hanks fans. After all, Hanks did win a bunch of awards for something or other. Me? It might be blasphemous, but I’ve never really sat through an entire Hanks movie before this one.
Hanks plays G. H. Dorr, Ph.D., a professor of dead languages who is supposedly on sabbatical for studying the music of the Renaissance. He rents a room from Marva Munson (Irma P. Hall), a little old lady who likes to go to church and talk to the portrait of her dead husband which hangs above her fireplace. Dorr tells the widow that he is using her cellar to practice with his ensemble.
But the ensemble is actually Dorr’s assorted criminal cohorts who are helping him dig a tunnel from the cellar to the bank vault of a casino. Closely watching the criminals’ plans is the widow’s cat, Pickles. However, when Marva catches Dorr and his gang red-handed, the bad guys decide to bump off the old lady. Unfortunately for them, Marva Munson is a much harder target than one would expect.
I found the film somewhat amusing, but mostly tepid. None of the characters really became anything more than their flat on-screen images. Dorr tentatively stepped out by reciting Edgar Allan Poe and Marva by temporarily contemplating using all the stolen money, but most of it was similar to the eye-rolling cheesiness of Hank’s character’s hiccuping giggle. The professor and his gang each had a singular weakness that was each man’s downfall–that casino insider’s penchant for waving guns around when he loses his temper, the demolition expert’s irritable bowel syndrome, the general’s chain-smoking habit, the dumb jock’s dumbness.
So if a heist goes wrong, everything goes wrong. However, I can’t help think that if most people wanted to rob a casino, they would have gone about it in a completely different and more circumspect way. Though one mustn’t forget that this is entertainment. I guess I was more in the mood for something more sophisticated than slapstick and pandering stereotype.