Possible spoilers ahead!
It’s been some time since Joel and Ethan Coen have made a full-out comedy. It’s been so long in fact, I can’t remember what movie that was. That’s not to say their movies don’t have humor, they all do. But it has been a while since one could be labeled a “comedy.”
I suppose you could say their most recent film, “Hail Caesar!” was an attempt to return to the comedy roots, but it just didn’t work. “Hail Caesar!” is the most incoherent and unfunny movie the Coens have ever made.
Set sometime in 1950’s Hollywood, this comedy opens with a shot of a sculpture of a crucified Christ figure in a Catholic church. Why you may ask? Your guess is as good as mine.
The film depicts a a little over a day in the life of Eddie Mannix, played by Josh Brolin. He is the Head Of Production for a studio called Capitol Pictures. Capitol churns out movies in a variety of genres, from Biblical epics to cornball westerns. But his main job is keeping actors in line.
On one particular day, Mannix has a number of problems to contend with: The studio chief wants Mannix to promote singing cowboy Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich) from B-western star to romantic leading man, this despite the fact the kid can’t act.
Next problem is aquatic musical star DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson) who just found out she’d pregnant, which is making her mermaid costume painful to wear, and, she’s not sure if she wants to the father of her child, something that would cause a huge PR headache for the studio and potentially end DeeAnna’s career.
Later, Mannix has to contend with a pair of twin gossip columnists (both played by Tilda Swinton) who are demanding answers to strange questions and threatening to go public with an awkward story about the studio’s biggest matinée idol, Baird Whitlock (George Clooney). Finally, and most crucially, Mannix learns that Whitlock has been kidnapped from the set of his Biblical epic, by a group of disgruntled Communist screenwriters who call themselves “The Future” in their ransom note.
In the meantime, Mannix must deal with his own personal issues: he’s a devout Catholic who goes daily to confession because he’s upset over having told his wife that he’s going to quit smoking, and for hitting movie stars. He’s also being aggressively courted by the Lockheed company, who tempts Eddie with what would be a major promotion and the promise of better hours.
Now, if you expect all of these stories to come together in the end in a “Leve Actually” type of way, you’re out of luck. All of these plots are just there to hide the main plot which involves one of the studios leading men defecting to the Soviet Union.
This whole movie was a big fat mess from beginning to end. The Coen brothers have the lovable but boneheaded Whitlock (George Clooney) stuck in a goofy Roman Centurion costume and for the whole movie. Meanwhile, Scarlett Johansson shows up for two freaking scenes that were kinda pointless. Ralph Fiennes has one scene with the cowboy and it tries too hard to be funny.
The movie lone highlight, is the cluelessly homoerotic “No Dames” musical number, starring Channing Tatum. This sequence was the only funny part of the movie and easilt it’s best.
Suffice it to say that “Hail Caesar!” was not worth the time it took to watch. One of the best casts in years was wasted with a stupid story, references, and jokes that most viewers are not going to get.
“Hail Caesar!” final score: 3