I don't know if I'm alone in this, but I really think the film misunderstands the tone of Flannery O'Connor's novel. Huston made the film satirical, but I thought O'Connor was being fairly unironic, and that accounted for the best (and most disturbing) passages in the book - like the museum and the gorilla. There was so much danger and menace in the lunacy it presented. Huston, on the other hand, treated these parts of the film, and even Brad Dourif's 'malaise,' as pure comedy, turning it into another film with kooky Southern characters.
I disagree entirely. I'm pretty familiar with both the book and the film and I think you're understating the humor in O'Connor and missing the seriousness in Huston. O'Connor's genius lies partly in how she can do both--be utterly serious while making you guffaw along the way. I've always been impressed with how Huston captures this in the film, and the absolutely terrific performances from Dourif, Stanton, Amy Wright manage to be both funny and convey the weird desperate need they all have for some kind of legitimacy--status for Stanton, family for Wright, sainthood for Dourif.
And I can't see--sorry--how you can eliminate irony from anything Flannery O'Connor ever wrote. If you mean irony = sarcasm, yes, but central to her whole approach was that we're all of us buffoons, slapsticking our way, some to grace and some to earthly damnation. I think this may be Huston's best late film (with The Dead) and that he manages to convey the essentials of the book better than just about any adaptation I can think of.
On the other hand, if anybody can explain Prizzi's Honor to me, I'd be grateful