A stellar George Clooney performance combined with the Coen brothers’ filmmaking acumen creates a hilarious “Hail, Caesar!” When the leading man in a big studio production is kidnapped, classic Hollywood goes awry in ways only a big studio executive can contain. Written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen, the comedy “Hail, Caesar!” is a stroll through vintage Hollywood illuminating all that comes with movie making back in the days.
In this Universal Pictures’ vintage glimpse, George Clooney plays a movie star Baird Whitlock who is kidnapped from the set of his 1950s comedy. Baird is the leader of the Roman Empire at the time of his capture. The ensemble cast of heavy hitter players surrounding Baird are meant to be a group of Hollywood big wigs who are tasked with finding one of their own after Baird’s been taken.
Meanwhile, Josh Brolin plays Capitol Pictures’ resident “fixer” Eddie Mannix, whose day is full of numerous crises and fires to put out, including the abduction of the studio’s narcissistic, clueless A-lister Baird himself. The crisis mount, and Mannix, who’s desperately trying to kick a smoking habit and stay true to a smoke-free promise made to his wife, moves and shakes like a Hollywood veteran keeping all the ducks in a row to complete a film. Not an easy task. Its even harder without nicotine.
“Hail, Caesar!” is a flashback to the days of old-school Tinseltown where the studio controlled the entire destiny of its actors. The job of the studio executive was to control everything – image, debts, marketing, PR, vices, payoffs and the like, while still forging ahead to produce a profitable project. Producing a completed film on time and on budget was liken to throwing marbles in the air and catching them all on their way down. Only the extremely talented and well resourced could pull off such a feat.
Veterans Joel and Ethan Coen take a comedic stroll in “Hail, Caesar!” The film’s epic nature is a reminder of the Coens’ brilliant “O Brother, Where Art Thou?.” Clooney returns as the resident doofus, clueless and funny. And it’s a role Clooney nails – amazingly played. However, as a film formula we’ve seen before, “Hail, Caesar!” moves the same characters methodically through a series of situations. Meanwhile, the film gets lost in its own busyness. Its not until the end, when all the weaves come together, that the viewer appreciates the Coen’s movie making brilliance. Yet, your yearn for more realizes the more’s not coming and the disappointment engines start to rev. Ultimately, the film is fun and entertaining with dull moments and oddly elongated meanders. While there’s plenty of high-voltage star power, you feel like you just sat down at a fancy restaurant to lunch on flat soda with a side of unappetizing fruit salad.
“Hail, Caesar!” is in theaters Friday.