‘Hail, Caesar!’ Critics Are Torn

The film, Hail, Caesar! is full of contradictions. It’s a Hollywood love story, but not in the traditional sense. There is no romance in this film, but rather, it is a film that loves Hollywood. It is also a comedy, but one that is more focused on the comical characterizations of its characters rather than punchlines. There is also a couple of song and dance numbers in it too, but you wouldn’t label this film a musical. The movie is full of stars, but most only have a few minutes of screen time playing roles just shy of being called a cameo. So, when it comes to reviews, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that what while some critics loved Hail, Caesar!, others hated it. One thing is for sure though. It is a Coen brother’s film, which means that you can never be sure exactly what you will see before seeing it.

Leah Greenblatt from Entertainment Weekly liked it. She gave the film a B+.

“There are at least five movies set inside Caesar! — including a sublimely silly song-and-dance number starring Channing Tatum as a tap-shoed sailor — and each one from sword-and-sandal epics to costume melodramas and hokey Westerns, gets a note-perfect tribute. It’s all too winky and meta to amount to much in the end, but it’s also too fun to care.”

However, Todd McCarthy from The Hollywood Reporter did not.

“Right off the bat, it’s clear that from a comedy perspective, something’s misfiring; the confession opening isn’t funny, the Roman saga feels a little off and Mannix is an entirely serious guy. Even a scene in which he solicits script comments from religious leaders of every faith about Hail, Caesar! isn’t terribly humorous.”

Overall, the consensus seems to suggest that while Hail, Caesar! isn’t the best Joel Coen and Ethan Coen movie of all time, it still is pretty much a fun ride and stars of the film agree. Kenneth Turan from The Los Angeles Times says it best.

“But the great thing about Hail, Caesar! is that it is fun whether you get all its references or not. Loving re-creations of classic Hollywood entertainments and lines like ‘Forgive me, father, I have sinned, I struck a movie star in anger,’ cannot fail to entertain, they really can’t.”

Set in the early 1950s, Hail, Caesar! brings back a lot of favorite actors and actresses who have been involved in other Coen creations over the years. George Clooney plays the dim-witted movie star of the next biblical epic film who gets kidnapped right off the lot. A mysterious group called “The Future” packed up “Caesar” and won’t give him back unless they get $100,000 from the studio. Josh Brolin plays Eddie Mannix, the “studio fixer” who is out to find him.

With the help of his secretary, Natalie, (Heather Goldenhersh), Mannix has other fish to fry as well including dealing with identical twin sister gossip columnists, Thora and Thessaly Thacker, who are both played by Tilda Swinton. While they are hunting down a story, it’s up to Mannix to set them off course.

Mannix also has to deal with calming down Laurence Laurentz (Ralph Fiennes), the uptight director who is having a heck of a time trying to get the former cowboy actor Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich) to act sophisticated. He also has his hands full finding a solution for DeeAnna Moran’s growing problem. Moran (Scarlett Johansson) is considered to be one of America’s sweethearts with a secret to hide. Oh, and he has to check the dailies with a chain-smoking film editor played by Francis McDormand. As they say, it’s all in a day’s work.

Yes, Channing Tatum dances in Hail, Caesar!, but don’t expect any “Magic Mike” moves. Like the era that the film’s story is set in, the Coen’s production is fairly squeaky clean and respects the history of movie making.

Hail, Caesar! may not be for everyone. Even Greenblatt describes the film as “Coen lite.” But if this homage to classic movies stirs up some interest for audiences to revisit some of yesterday’s big hits, than maybe that’s enough.

[Photo courtesy of Universal]