Movie review: Burke & Hare

From the December 15, 2011 edition

For a time, John Landis had the golden touch, with hits like “Animal House,” “The Blues Brothers” and “Trading Places.” It’s been a while since his last big screen score, but judging from “Burke & Hare,” Landis hasn’t lost his form.

His bawdy, gory retelling of the true story of two Irishmen in 19th century Edinburgh who sell bodies to a local medical college plays like the love child born from an orgy between The Three Stooges and Itchy and Scratchy.

Simon Pegg is Burke and Andy Serkis, the body behind Gollum of “Lord of the Rings,” is Hare. They’re presented as start-up entrepreneurs who stumble upon a demand that needs supplying, and happen to have a corpse from the boarding house run by Hare’s wife, Lucky (Jessica Hynes).

After finding a surgeon (Tom Wilkinson) who’ll buy as many bodies as they can deliver, Burke and Hare take the obvious path to expansion: murder.

Writers Piers Ashworth and Nick Moorcroft pack a lot more plot in — too much, in fact. Their stabs at historical fiction can elicit groans and highlight the places where Landis’ distinctive style has worn thin from age.

Nonetheless, the movie’s tone of cheerfully maniacal glee is weirdly endearing.