Burke and Hare

2 out of 5 stars
Burke and Hare

Time Out says

2 out of 5 stars

It is the best of times, it is the worst of times. For the two Bills, William Burke (Pegg) and William Hare (Serkis), it's mainly the worst. Money isn't tight so much as barely existent in 19th-century Scotland, and the duo's many con jobs are nearer to netting them a lynching than some loot. Fortunately, the local medical school is in need of some cadavers for scientific experimentation, and after a few false starts---never try rolling a body in a barrel down a steep cobblestone walkway---Burke and Hare's fortunes are looking up. But a steady stream of corpses ain't that easy to come by.

John Landis's lackluster black comedy ("a true story, except for the parts that are not," haw haw) makes a laugh-free hash of the real-life exploits of the titular serial killers, whose terrifying method of smothering their victims begot its own term: burking. Here, the duo is reenvisioned as a sort of Caledonian Laurel and Hardy, which would be darkly delightful if any of the director's handsomely photographed comic set pieces (from the grisly-'n'-goofy dissection scenes presided over by Tom Wilkinson and Tim Curry to an all-female production of Macbeth that Burke finances in pursuit of poon tang) elicited the slightest guffaw. The film doesn't come within spitting distance of vintage Landis, e.g., Animal House or An American Werewolf in London. But at least it's not The Stupids.

Follow Keith Uhlich on Twitter: @keithuhlich

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