Length: 106 minutes / 1.77 hours
I like movies as much as the next connoisseur of film, but clearly the Coen Brothers like them more than I do. Specifically, they like the films made during the “golden age” of Hollywood: the 1950’s. From action-packed westerns, to Biblical epics, to underwater choreography, to big-budget musicals, these films exemplified a Hollywood that was on top of its game. Unfortunately, as is the case with any great success, it can be hard to maintain over time. In what could be considered a “love letter” to a Hollywood of the past, the Coen Brothers bring all these films together in Hail, Caesar! (2016).
While I could appreciate the references made throughout this film, many of them felt quite disjointed. Sure, there’s the tie-in to real-life Hollywood fixer, Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin), but he merely acts as a link between scenes of grandeur meant to show how well the Coen Brothers can follow the homages of the famous films they’re parodying. In fact, some of these segments are almost uncomfortably long, with little point other than to show off a well-known genre or style (or to beat a joke to death). As a result, the pacing of this film feels quite staggered and the plot on the light side.
Admittedly, Hail, Caesar! is fun, with some good bits interspersed throughout. The “red scare” starting to gain relevance in the timeframe leads to quite a bit of comedy, the meeting to ensure nobody is “offended” is hilarious, and even some of the film segments are amusing as well. We do get to Channing Tatum’s singing and dancing skills on full display in this film, but it’s hardly enough to save it from itself. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciated what the Coen Brothers were trying to do here (and it wasn’t necessarily to poke fun at Ben-Hur (1959)), but it never felt coherent enough to be good.
Working more as a history lesson in film than a straight-up comedy, I give Hail, Caesar! 2.5 stars out of 5.