REVIEW: Hail, Caesar!

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Review by Dustin Heller

(Feb. 3, 2016) — Hail, Caesar! is the new comedy film from the outstanding writing and directing duo, Joel and Ethan Coen.  The Coen Brothers are legendary filmmakers and have made some pretty amazing movies over last thirty plus years with the likes of Raising Arizona, Fargo, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, and No Country for Old Men amongst a slew of others.

Like most Coen Brothers films, the cast boasts plenty of A-list names such as Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Alden Ehrenreich, Ralph Fiennes, Jonah Hill, Scarlett Johansson, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton and Channing Tatum.  Hail, Caesar! is rated PG-13 for some suggestive content and smoking.

The film follows a day in the life of Eddie Mannix (Brolin) who works as a “fixer” for Capitol Pictures in Hollywood.  Mannix is overseeing the production of the upcoming big budget film Hail Caesar starring beloved movie star Baird Whitlock (Clooney).  Whitlock is drugged on set and gets kidnapped by a group of Communists calling itself “The Future.”  Mannix must track down those responsible for the abduction while also juggling a number of other issues going on at the studio.

First of all, he has change the image of Hobie Doyle (Ehrenreich), a singing cowboy the studio wants to turn into a dramatic actor.  Mannix must also find a way to cover for DeeAnna Moran (Johansson), whose pregnancy would be bad for the film and the studio.  On top of all of this, Mannix has to make a decision on an attractive job offer from Lockheed that would make his life much simpler.  So many fires to put out, but all in a day’s work.

Hail, Caesar! is a parody on the Golden Age of Hollywood, but the story is quite incoherent and never really comes together.  That’s not to say that the film is not entertaining because it does have its moments (a big dance number with Channing Tatum in Navy garb and a verbal exchange between Fiennes and Ehrenreich are both superb), but the plot is so all-over-the-place that none of it really makes much sense by the end.

A new film by the Coen Brothers is always something I get excited about, but I never really quite know what to expect.  Hail, Caesar! is billed as a comedy, but it falls more in line with Burn After Reading (which I just didn’t get) than The Big Lebowski (one of my all-time favorites).

You can always count on an exceptional cast for a Coen Brothers movie as well, and this is no exception.  Everyone is quite good, but Alden Ehrenreich and Ralph Fiennes stole the show for me.  Aside from Brolin, Clooney, and Ehrenreich the rest of actors were really in bit parts and their characters aren’t fully realized, which is disappointing considering the level of talent.

I’ve tried to ask myself what I would have thought about Hail, Caesar! if it weren’t written and directed by the Coen Brothers ,and I think the answer is that I wouldn’t have liked it very much at all.  Expectations were so high due to the quality of the cast and crew, and unfortunately I’d have to say I was relatively disappointed in the outcome.

Grade:  C+

Hail, Caesar! opens in theaters on Friday, February 5

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