“Hail, Caesar!” Misses its Marks

imageWhile it contains several inspired performances, droll dialogue and impeccable period detail, Joel and Ethan Coen’s send-up of Hollywood Hail, Caesar! (C+) doesn’t come together with quite the finesse of the brothers’ typical efforts. It depicts one day in the life of Hollywood in the golden years, but the result is far from vintage. James Brolin is sturdy but impenetrable as the film studio executive protagonist who must simultaneously contend with a playboy movie star (an enjoyable George Clooney) kidnapped by a group of screenwriters during the filming of a biblical epic, dueling gossip columnists (both played with tart delight by Tilda Swinton) and an array of minor subplots with stars ranging from a sassy Scarlett Johansson to a debonair Ralph Fiennes, chewing the scenery. While the tone is broadly comedic, both the scope of the plot and the reach of its impact are often protracted and diminished, as if the auteurs knew this was a lark and just didn’t really give it all they’ve got. It’s not enough of a satire of filmmaking or a skewering of the studio system or an examination of storytelling or the changing times to really stand out. Channing Tatum and Alden Ehrenreich are underused gems; both of their short-changed characters could be in a much more interesting movie. But like middlebrow Woody Allen films or pizza, even when it’s mediocre, it’s still pretty good. So let it be with the Coen Brothers’s Caesar.

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