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What's the story?
In THE LADYKILLERS, Professor Goldthwait Higginson Dorr, PhD. (Tom Hanks), a man who dresses like Colonel Sanders but whose rhetorical flourishes are as tangled as a kudzu vine. Dorr rents a room from Mrs. Munson (Irma P. Hall) and tells her that he and his band want to use her cellar to practice their music. His real plan is to tunnel from her house to a nearby riverboat casino so that they can rob it. He puts together a less than crackerjack team, including experts in ordnance Garth Pancake (J.K. Simmons) and The General (Tzi Ma), Lump (Ryan Hurst), a big guy for the heavy lifting, and McSam (Marlon Wayans), a janitor at the casino. Mrs. Munson is an upstanding, proper church-going woman who may not understand the details of what is going on around her, but she knows right from wrong. She is as quick to insist on good behavior as she is to offer her cinnamon cookies. The fun is in seeing a sweet little "Land o' Goshen"-ing lady innocently foiling the plans of the would-be criminal masterminds.
Is it any good?
This lively film provides some wicked pleasures. Tom Hanks and the Coen brothers take the title and the concept from the 1955 English black comedy classic. They may miss the primary point (and joke) of the original, and they tone down their usual corkscrew dialogue and mordant humor, but it's still enjoyable. The Coens love characters who are sweet but not very bright, especially when they manage to foil characters who are crooked but not very bright. And Hanks likes to play against his type as the all-American guy we'd like living next door.
The movie is set in an idyllic Mississippi town somewhere between Mayberry and a Norman Rockwell painting and some time gently nestled between the Depression and hip-hop. The humor comes from a colorful assortment of injuries, ailments, and casualties, along with some choice dialogue. If the Coens and Hanks are a little too far outside the boundaries of their best work, their second-and third-best is also watchable, at least for those who find a professor with bad teeth and a big vocabulary, a dog with a gas mask, a cat with a severed finger, and a garbage scow with a dead body funny.
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