Hail, Caesar! Review
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As both writers and directors, Ethan and Joel Coen are pretty well-rounded guys, their projects ranging from the absurd to the profound. So, after directing a couple of serious dramas, they’re back to comedy for Hail, Caesar! a mysterious, meandering, and entirely madcap romp through 1950s Hollywood.

Hail, Caesar! follows the day-to-day adventures of Josh Brolin’s Eddie Mannix, the guy who handles every problem, crisis, and scandal for Capitol Pictures. Though he’s busy dealing with unplanned pregnancies, outraged directors, and pushy gossip columnists, nothing is quite as important as the sudden disappearance of Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), the star of the studio’s biggest, most high-profile production, Hail, Caesar! As the filmmakers attempt to work around their star, Mannix sets out to find Whitlock and bring him back. But when the studio receives a ransom note, it becomes more complicated than just checking the local bars and brothels.

If you love classic films, you’ll enjoy the Coen Brother’s off the wall escapades through a variety of well-loved genres. Around the Capitol lot, you’ll find Scarlett Johansson starring as a beaming mermaid in the middle of a pool of synchronized beauties. You’ll find Channing Tatum starring as a singing, dancing sailor. You’ll find musical cowboys and conceited directors and, of course, George Clooney as a Roman soldier in an epic Biblical drama. You’ll also find plenty of rumors, gossip, and Hollywood hysterics. It’s all wildly exaggerated and delightfully campy stuff—the kind that will appeal to both classic movie geeks and celebrity gossip mag subscribers.

In the midst of this over-the-top old-Hollywood variety show, though, there isn’t a whole lot of room left for a solid, well-developed story. Though Baird’s abduction is technically the film’s main focus, there isn’t much to it. It doesn’t have a real sense of urgency, despite the fact that the star’s disappearance is bad for both the film’s budget and the studio’s publicity. There’s just too much other stuff for Mannix to deal with—and, ironically enough, there’s so much going on that very little actually happens. And while the kidnapping plot does have some clever moments, it gets stranger and stranger as the film progresses, until, with one head-scratching scene, this wild ride eventually runs completely off the rails.

For fans of classic films and quirky Coen Brothers comedy, there’s still plenty to love in this irreverent and sometimes wonderfully hokey Hollywood farce. But it just isn’t quite as sharp—or as focused—as some of the duo’s more beloved comedies.

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