The Coen brothers have produced a series of unusual, bizarre
and often brilliant films such as Raising
Arizona, Fargo, The
Big Lebowski, The Hudsucker
Proxy and Barton Fink.
Their new film, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, is very much in the
broad, comedic style of their early film, Raising
Arizona. But this is really Coen-lite. O Brother, Where
Art Thou? is a pleasing comedy but there's not much to it. It
is the story of three prisoners who escape from a chain gang in 1920's
Mississippi and go on a series of adventures as their leader (George Clooney)
tries to get back to his wife (Holly Hunter) and regain some lost
treasure. The other two Con's are played by John Turturro and Tim
Blake Nelson. As advertised, this story is a retelling of Homer's
Odyssey. But the similarities are not overwhelming. Clooney's
character, named Ulysses, is trying to get back to his wife after
a long absence and she is being sought after by a suitor. They meet a one-eyed
man (John Goodman) who beats them up, they meet three "sirens", and they
are washed away just before reaching home. But this movie is more
like The Three Stooges Meet
Ulysses. There are a lot of sight gags and pratfalls, the best being
the attempt by three guys chained together to jump onto a moving train.
There is also a strange musical-dance number involving the KKK. The
similarity of this film to Raising
Arizona extends to the appearances of John Goodman and Holly Hunter.
They are good although their roles are not much more than cameos.
Clooney carries this film and does a good job playing the lead character
who cares more about his hair than anything else. He is showing that,
unlike some other refugees from TV such as David Caruso, he is making the
transition very well. He has already made such well received films
as Out of Sight, Three
Kings and The Perfect Storm.
Turturro, a Coen favorite, and Nelson are good too although they do little
more than mug for the camera. The durable Charles Durning appears
as the Governor of Mississippi and The
Practice's Michael Badalucco appears as a cranky Baby-Face Nelson.
I can't say much against O Brother, Where Art Thou? It was
fun but I think maybe Fargo
has spoiled me and now I expect too much from the Coen boys.