Nostalgia can be both good and bad, bringing folks back to a seemingly better time while often tempting folks to just live in the past instead of doing something great for the present.  The latter is, alas, the trap Joel and Ethan Coen fall into with their new film Hail Caesar!

It's the 1950s, and Eddie Manniz (Josh Brolin) is an executive fixes at Capitol Studios.  His job, which extends into all hours of the day and night, is to oversee the studio's assorted films and to fix the problems the actors get into.
And there are plenty of problems.  Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) is starring in the studio's big religious picture Hail, Caesar! but he has an older scandal hanging over his head; he also gets kidnapped by a group called the Future.  Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich) is a Western movie star whose country accent is terrible in his high society movie, driving director Laurence Laurentz (Ralph Fiennes) crazy.  DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson) faces the scandal of being a single mother, leading to the solution of having her adopt her own baby.  Mannix also has a possibly better job offer from a military company, and his battle with smoking leads him to confession every day.  There are also cameos by Channing Tatum as a musical's star singer-dancer Burt Gurney, Jonah Hill as studio legal patsy Joseph Silverman, and Tilda Swinton as identical twin gossip reporters Thora and Thessaly Thacker.

The Coen brothers have a great reverence for the 1950s movies, whether it's the snippets of the fake movies or the chain-smoking tough guy Mannix doing what he has to in order to keeps the wheels of the studio running.  Unfortunately, there's not more to Hail, Caesar! beyond this superficial adoration of the time period.  The truly stellar cast isn't given any real depth for any characters, and there aren't enough laughs or amusing scenarios to make this an effective comedy.  There are potentially interesting threads (the religious imagery and themes alongside the Communists) but they're given zero development.  Hail, Caesar! is ultimately nice to look at but not much more.

Overall grade: C
Reviewed by James Lynch

No comments: