It’s been a while since the Coen Brothers have made a straight-out comedy (perhaps because their reputation there is a little hit-and-miss); Hail, Caesar does a pretty good job of highlighting both their strengths and weaknesses when it comes to getting laughs.
It’s the early 1950s, and Hollywood “fixer” Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) has a busy day ahead of him keeping Capitol Pictures on track. The big drama is the disappearance of star Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) – don’t worry, he’s been kidnapped by communists – but pretty much everyone on the lot is going through some kind of crisis, and that includes Mannix himself.
The plot, as with a lot of recent output from the Coens, is pretty feeble, with an ending deliberately designed to be a let down: the real fun is the string of set-pieces saluting the kinds of films they don’t make any more, from an aquatic ballet (starring Scarlett Johansson) to a sailors-on-the-town song-and-dance film (with Channing Tatum dancing up a storm) and a cowboy musical (with breakout star Alden Ehrenreich putting on the aw shucks charm). Everyone here seems to be having a lot of fun, even when the jokes are pretty slight. Fortunately the good vibe here is contagious.
Reviewed by Anthony Morris