Best of, Worst of… screw ‘em!
time to sink through the mire towards the stuff down there nestled
the surface. Past the big hits, cult classics, and respected
stuff where the filler lives. Maybe even a little closer to
bottom than the top. Treacherously close to the bombs, the stinkers,
the abominations. Films that not only don’t get love but don’t
even deserve love.
So with that we bring you… Ten Mediocre Films We Can’t Help But
Note: Each of these films is
by a single editor. These are not committee decisions, not are
representative of one unified CHUD.com editorial focus. Each author
on their own.
Six – The
by Renn Brown (email address for hate mail)
Directors: The Coen Brothers
Joel, Ethan Coen (credit to William Rose for the original)
Hanks, Irma P. Hall, Marlon Wayans, J.K. Simmons, Bruce Campbell
Office: $39,799,191 (Budget:
I must admit right away that to select the Coen Brother’s 2004 remake of the classic comedy The Ladykillers, is to make a pretty loaded choice. In all likelihood, it will be the best movie included on this list and arguably, it is mediocre only by virtue of being surrounded by the otherwise impeccable oeuvre of perhaps the finest living American filmmakers. One of the two films that famously prompted Drew McWeeny to call for the Coen’s early retirement, it shares this shameful position with Intolerable Cruelty. Together the two represent a bizarre plummet in relative quality that is made even more inexplicable by the trilogy of greatness that we’ve received since.
Make no mistake though- The Ladykillers wouldn’t be great no matter whose name hovered under the “Directed By:” credit. It’s a bland, groping comedy about a group of men trying to rob a Casino boat that painfully misjudges the comedic value of its characters, and has the unfortunate habit of periodically screeching to a grinding halt in service to a style of humor that falls flat, flat, flat. You get the feeling that this is an attempt at a folksy Ocean’s 11 and the “dig a tunnel to the vault” caper feels classical, but nothing new is brought to the table
“Sorry Marlan, I’m afraid we’ve received word they won’t be
greenlighting Requiem For A Dream 2: A New Addiction.”
What is most disappointing about The Ladykillers is that it is not a shocking, 180Âº turn from the Coen’s style or sensibilities, whose failure can be swept under the rug or dismissed as studio/mainstream pandering. The Ladykillers is extremely Coen, and it’s the failure of their style and aesthetic that makes it so troubling. This is probably best encapsulated by the mastermind of the plot, Professor G.H. Dorr. He is obviously a riff on the verbosely hollow, but lovably manipulative character-type that George Clooney played with as Everett in O, Brother Where Art Thou? –possibly the Coen’s most publicly beloved character. Despite a valiant attempt by Tom Hanks to channel that style into a curious villain straight out of an old western stage-melodrama, the timing, the script, and the humor consistently misfire, and often drag the film down.
The Kool-Aid Man doesn’t always make it through on the first try.
On the flipside, and the reason I embrace the film still, is that the failure of a pair of masters still entertains far more than the triumphs of hacks. There is a lot to enjoy in the film, not least of which is Irma P. Hall as Marva- the warm center of a cynical mess. Though their camera is oddly static, the Coen’s vision is as sharp and well composed as usual, gilded by the characteristically incredible cinematography of Roger Deakins. The attention to unique and memorable characters, even among the walk-on and smaller supporting roles, is perfectly in place (I love the fat, laughing guard). Small and delightful flourishes abound, such as the supernaturally reactive portrait of Marva’s late husband, and the Landis-like appreciation of revival-style Church music. The set up and payoff of certain religious themes and poetic imagery gives the film a structural integrity that comes from real filmmakers composing their work, even if they fuck it up in the execution.
“Mmm, I do love the taste of a good Dickens.”
Added value can be found in The Ladykillers by the clues and indications it gives about what came later from the brothers. While there’s nothing here that would suggest one of the best films of the decade was a comin’, it certainly can be seen in hindsight as a harbinger of the misanthropy of No Country For Old Men and Burn After Reading with all of the ultimately shitty or worthless human beings that make up the Professor’s crew. Even the warmer, kinder characters of the town are touched by an uninformed naivety and ignorance that the brothers grow less merciful towards in later films. The warm-center Marva herself is driven in part by pride and attention (she’ll donate every dime she ends up with to her favorite cause “…as long as everybody knows…”).
I must begrudgingly embrace The Ladykillers because, even though the film is ultimately a flaccid effort, the evidence of two master craftsmen and a genuine spark of imagination is too present to completely dismiss it.
movie despite the fact that Bruce Campbell wasn’t credited or buy the Blu-Ray of the better-than-mediocre original!