‘O Brother’ is right on track

In the Depression-era Deep South, three escapees from a Mississippi prison chain gang, Pete (John Turturro), Delmar (Tim Blake Nelson), and Everett Ulysses McGill (George Clooney), must match wits with the cunning and mysterious lawman Cooley, who tracks the men, bent on bringing the trio back to the prison farm.

Joel and Ethan Coen (of "Fargo" and "Big Lebowski" fame), have once again manifested a fresh and original comedy, which hit theaters on Jan. 12. The writing / directing / producing team has digressed from their usual dark, twisted humor and focused on a lighter, more ambitious adventure, which is loosely based on Homer's The Odyssey.           

What sets "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" apart from other adventure-set comedies is the unusual sense of timing and wit found in every ounce of its dialogue. The unpredictable pace of this movie seems to meander aimlessly, but amusingly, about the screen and eventually brings closure to all of the incessant ramblings that it managed to commence. Some would argue that "O Brother" is a confused and misguided comedy in need of a real plot, but in some twisted way, we are meant to realize that this frame-by-frame epic saga cannot exist in any other format.

"O Brother" introduces the setting in the early `30s, during the great depression. The story's main focus is a motley crew of escaped criminals in search of a great treasure. Enter Ulysses Everett McGill (George Clooney): a loquacious and well-educated thief, and the leader of his less knowledgeable sidekicks, Tim Blake Nelson ("The Thin Red Line") and John Turturro ("The Big Lebowski"). What starts out as a quest for money quickly transforms into a battle of spirituality, politics and survival. And with dialogue riffs that rival "Pulp Fiction," "O Brother" never fails to retain a sharp satirical sting to each scene's atmosphere. Clooney plays a big part of the film's success, adding the essential element of intellect to the character.

Of course, some of the brazen, off-the-cuff humor may be offensive to some folks (extreme cruelty to animals, racism and spiritual mockery are recurrent themes); But leave it to the Coen brothers to make serious issues laughable, such as John Goodman as a Ku Klux Klan member. Between the explosions, the attention usurping musical ballads, and the non-stop gag dialogue, it's amazing that a progressing plot was even squeezed into an hour and 40 minutes. "O Brother Where Art Thou" is saturated with engaging content just waiting to be absorbed by the audience.

Let your opinion of previous Coen flicks ("Fargo," "The Big Lebowski," "Raising Arizona," "The Hudsucker Proxy") be the indicator of your perception of this film. Essentially, they all share similar traits: Fast, funny and unarguably original. But "O Brother" is probably their best to date. If you are unfamiliar with the writing talent of the Coen brothers, then seeing this movie is highly recommended. It's a brilliant escape from your garden-variety teen "comedies" and cliché juicing action flicks. It's a wild and fun ride, to say the least.