In a lighthearted riff on Homer's epic poem set in the Depression-era South verbose charmer Everett Ulysses McGill (George Clooney) and two dimwitted cronies (John Turturro Tim Blake Nelson) break free from a Mississippi chain gang only to face a long series of trials including a trio of seductive laundry-washing sirens and a fearsome one-eyed Bible salesman (Homer's Cyclops of course creepily portrayed by John Goodman). Unlike the original Ulysses Everett also must contend with pursuing cops Southern-friend politicians and the KKK if he is to prevent his less-than-faithful former wife (Holly Hunter) from marrying a rival suitor.
Leading goofs Clooney Turturro and Nelson gamely get into the Three Stooges-ish tone of the piece with Clooney in particular delivering a winking self-mocking turn that must be his broadest screen performance to date. Nelson ("The Thin Red Line") is also a riot as a mild-mannered yokel for whom every slow-moving thought requires visible effort. Disappointingly Coen veterans Goodman Hunter and Charles Durning have less to sink their teeth into than in previous outings with the brothers.
Writer-director Joel and writer-producer Ethan Coen rack up yet another enjoyable romp featuring all of their signature elements - playfully stylized camerawork offbeat music colorful characters distanced by dripping irony. Evoking the road comedies of the '30s and '40s this easygoing comic adventure has an old-fashioned flavor and (for a Coen picture at least) a relative lack of graphic violence that links it to the brothers' underrated 1994 Frank Capra homage "The Hudsucker Proxy." Amusing as it is however "Brother" rarely achieves the same hilarious heights as previous Coen laughers such as "Raising Arizona" and "The Big Lebowski."