Review: The Ladykillers

Dave and I attended a screening of the Coen brothers remake of The Ladykillers earlier this week. I've not seen the original starring Alec Guinness though I've heard good things about it.
The original is described as a comedy of manners, and this remake retains that aspiration, but what surprised me is how unmannered most of the comedy was. The gang of robbers consists of a series of caricatures, most of which caused my eyes to roll. The most convincing performance might be by a painting of the late Mr. Munson. I'm still grasping for the subtle, offbeat humor of the early Coen brothers work, like Raising Arizona. Not that it's all bad. The whole is somewhat greater than the sum of the parts. Irma Hall and Tom Hanks capitalize on the occasional juicy line of dialogue from the Coen brothers, and when they do it's witty and wonderful.
But viewed as part of a creative continuum, this movie and their other recent genre efforts Intolerable Cruelty and The Man Who Wasn't There leave me pining for the 1984-1999 Coen brother vintages. They can cover these genres just fine, but their genius is most manifest in work that's uniquely their own. Even the sharpest knives can dull with age and misuse.