Movie Review – ‘Hail, Caesar!’

“The film’s most glaring flaw is its constant fallback position of teeing up short and wacky scenes without a common storyline thread, relinquishing Clooney’s missing artist angle to nearly an afterthought.”  Patrick King, REEL BRIEF

Hail, Caesar!

Four-time Academy Award-winning screenwriters Ethan and Joel Coen share director and script-writing duties in this new release about a day in the life of a Hollywood studio executive (Josh Brolin). As an influential mover and shaker in the entertainment industry, Eddie Mannix (Brolin) must delicately solve random movie star and on-set problems in order to keep Capital Pictures’ filmmaking machine churning out box office hits.

Nominated for thirteen Oscars for their collaborative efforts on blockbuster films, the Coen brothers (“Bridge of Spies”) are easily two of the most distinguished and renowned screenplay writers in Hollywood history. Unfortunately, as evidenced in this latest endeavor, the duo’s champion wordsmithing talents don’t automatically transform into successful directing skillsets.

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“Hail, Caesar!” takes viewers back to the Golden Age of Hollywood, the 30-year run in classic films beginning in the 1930s that offered audiences an iconic staple of Westerns, Gene Kelly dance musicals and historic Biblical dramas like “Ben-Hur”. The premise is that one of show business’ top actors, Baird Whitlock (played by George Clooney), goes missing from a movie set production. That disappearance becomes Brolin’s studio exec character’s most pressing problem to solve. Despite this interesting plotline, the film runs aground when it drifts off-course into several smaller, unrelated subplots.

The film’s most glaring flaw is its constant fallback position of teeing up short and wacky scenes without a common storyline thread, relinquishing Clooney’s missing artist angle to nearly an afterthought. Several funny lines and moments are written into the movie by the Coen brothers, but very few of them actually further the main Clooney MIA plot. In fact, “Hail, Caesar!” feels like one “Saturday Night Live” skit after another, rather than a major motion picture.

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A star-studded cast surrounds the Brolin and Clooney characters, led by the superb Ralph Fiennes, funnyman Jonah Hill, an underrated Channing Tatum and the always sexy Scarlett Johansson. These A-Listers–each giving intriguing and watchable performances–can’t keep “Hail, Caesar!” from derailing on its stroll down Hollywood’s Memory Lane. Between the dilemma of a pregnant actress, a legendary cowboy’s crossover to a dramatic role and a polished dance routine, “Hail, Caesar!” provides entertainment. But on a whole, this Coen production screams “Hail, Rental!” at best.

Grade: C

“Hail, Caesar!” is rated PG-13 for some suggestive content and smoking.  Its running time is 1 hour and 45 minutes.

© 2016, Patrick. All rights reserved.



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