Hail, Caesar! (2016)
Cast includes: Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Alden Ehrenreich (Blue Jasmine), Ralph Fiennes, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand, Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Alison Pill
Writer/Director: Ethan and Joel Coen (Fargo, True Grit, No Country for Old Men)
Genre: Comedy | Musical (106 minutes)
“Bless me Father, for I have sinned.” It’s only been 24 hours since Eddie Mannix’s last confession, but he’s got a lot on his mind… not just his lying to Mrs. Mannix about not smoking. His day starts at 5AM… getting an actress out of a scrape over some embarrassing photos. The studio’s Roman-era extravaganza, staring Baird Whitlock as Caesar, is nearing completion. Studio head, Mr. Schenk, wants that cowboy dream boat, Hobie Doyle, for a key role in “Merrily We Dance.” “Does he talk?” Mr. Schenk doesn’t care. Meanwhile, at the Roman banquet, the lyre player slips a little something extra into Caesar’s goblet. Caesar/Whitlock makes it back to his trailer, but soon passes out into the arms of a couple of toga-clad Romans with a get-away laundry van. In the meantime, Mannix is trying to smooth the feathers of religious leaders, regarding the studio’s representation of Jesus… not just another crown of thorns.
“We can’t find Baird Whitlock, and there aren’t any gals missing.” “Keep looking”… Mannix has other fires to put out. Hobie Doyle needs an image makeover. Mannix orders him to take Carlotta to the opening of “Crazy ol’ Moon.” (Love the way she sings and dances… “Oh it’s nothing… it’s all in the hips, the lips, the eyes and the thighs.”) If news about DeAnna’s out-of-wedlock pregnancy gets out, it’ll be a public relations disaster. On the set of “Merrily We Dance,” Hobie’s high-pitched, nasal southern drawl, isn’t working for this British society film. OK… forget about the “mirthless chuckle.” Director Laurence Laurentz has decided to narrow the focus… just the basics… “Would that i-twer so simple!”
Would that it were so simple… indeed. Baird Whitlock is still missing and there’s a whole cast of “Roman schmoes” assembled and awaiting Caesar’s final speech. The communist kidnappers (aka “The Future”) are asking for a $100,000 ransom. And to top it off, we now know that Mannix has an opportunity to leave this “circus” and go “run a real business”… something having to do with that top secret H bomb test at Bikini Atoll.
Hail, Caesar! is truly a love letter to old Hollywood and a bygone era. It’s a chaotic nostalgia trip with nods to as many classic icons as time will allow. As it turns out, Baird Whitlock is never in mortal danger from the commie “study group” that’s kidnapped him. What passes for a plotline is simply a vehicle for the Coen brothers to have some good-natured fun. What makes Hail, Caesar! different from most spoofs is that it’s never played as a spoof. Every line, every scene and every performance is played with absolute sincerity. The Coens have assembled an all-star cast, with many major actors in tiny cameo roles. Fans of classic movies will enjoy the parodies of old favorites and chuckle at countless funny bits throughout. If you’re looking for a spellbinding plot with meaning, you might want to skip this one. “Bless me Father, for I have sinned.” Is it wrong for Mannix to throw his life away trying to manage a crazy circus? Audiences will ask themselves if it’s wrong to throw their time away on a crazy mélange of mindless chuckles.
3 popped kernels
A Hollywood nostalgia trip… thin on plot, thick on chuckles
Gender Style: Neutral
Distribution: Mainstream Wide Release
Tempo: Cruises Comfortably
Visual Style: High-End Production
Nutshell: Spoof on classic Hollywood
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Pure Entertainment