By Paul Doro   Published Jan 15, 2001 at 9:17 AM

The Coen brothers (Ethan and Joel) are an acquired taste. Some people love their quirky characters and offbeat humor, while others find them boring and too bizarre. They have developed a cult following over the years and won an Oscar in 1997 (Best Original Screenplay for "Fargo").

Their last movie, 1998's "The Big Lebowski," is one of the funniest movies ever made. Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski and Walter Sobchak may be the best comedy duo of all time. It's hard to follow up such pure genius, but the Coen's give it a shot with their latest, "O Brother, Where Art Thou?"

Based on "The Odyssey" by Homer, "O Brother" tells the story of three escaped convicts, Ulysses Everett McGill (George Clooney), Pete (John Turturro) and Delmar (Tim Blake Nelson). They are not the three brightest men in the world, but criminals don't get much nicer.

The trio is out to find treasure worth $1.2 million. Only Everett knows where it is and they only have four days to find it. After that, it's going to end up at the bottom of a man-made lake. Everett also wants to get back to his wife Penny (Holly Hunter) and their six daughters.

On their way to the treasure, there is a lot of adventure. The trio meets an outlaw named George "Babyface" Nelson ("The Practice's" Michael Badalucco), encounter three beautiful women bathing in a stream and get robbed by a one-eyed bible salesman named Dan Teague (John Goodman). And that's not the half of it. Meanwhile, mean Sheriff Cooley (Daniel von Bargen) is hot on their tail.

"O Brother, Where Art Thou?" isn't perfect, but it's frequently hilarious. Some of the predicaments the trio find themselves in are outrageously funny. It also moves along swiftly, is gorgeously shot by the Coen's regular cinematographer (Roger Deakins) and features wonderful music by T-Bone Burnett (with help from Carter Burwell and Chris Thomas King).

Clooney shows range and pulls off a great comedic performance as a man who likes his Dapper Dan and isn't quite as smart as he thinks he is. Turturro and Nelson are equally good in their roles, creating a trio of lovable misfits.

The Coen brothers (Ethan produces, Joel directs and they both write) are becoming two of the most reliable filmmakers around. You know when you're watching a Coen brother's movie, yet each one is uniquely different. They aren't afraid to take risks and test themselves.

"O Brother, Where Art Thou?" is great fun for all, even if you don't like other Coen movies. To enjoy it, you only have to like laughing.

Grade: A-

"O Brother, Where Art Thou?" is now showing.