Hai,l Caesar!
 
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Hail, Caesar!

Why don’t we leave the Coen Brothers’ 1950’s Hollywood studio comedy walking on air?

 

Going back into territory they and others have explored before (not that there’s anything wrong with that), this ambitious and great looking picture centers around 27 hours in the life of famed MGM Studio fixer Eddie Mannix. We begin and end as Eddie takes Confession, admitting he bummed a few of the cigarettes he’d promised his wife he’d quit. Josh Brolin, nattily playing Mannix like a stereotypical gumshoe, sets us up for a whale of a ride. What if Eddie leaves the church and goes and offs somebody, we’re thinking. But, no, no such fear (or luck). Eddie’s going to work, rescuing starlets, calming emotional directors, rewriting an unplanned pregnancy, dodging vying gossip columnists and arranging a payoff for the star who’s just been kidnapped and held for ransom by the studio’s communist screenwriters. All of this is played out with admirable verve by stars as big as George Clooney, Ralph Fiennes, Scarlett Johannsen and Tilda Swinton. A newer star, Alden Ehrenreich, is given his shot with the role of a cowboy turned box office magnet and he runs with it, in a who’s THAT way reminiscent of so many other young actors the Coens have plucked and placed into key roles. And when Channing Tatum shows up in a Gene Kelly-esque song and dance number, he doesn’t just steal the show, the show simply stops and gets out of the way so he can do his oh-yeah-baby thing.

 

It’s what goes on in between all of this that drags this potentially fizzy production flat. Almost every scene feels as if it goes on at least a beat or two too long, the insights aren’t, and crazy zig and zag of Eddie’s world winds up feeling disjointed to us, the viewer. Even a surface level scene, where Eddie brings in a collection of religious leaders to approve an expensive new production, goes for familiar, easy jokes. All are played well enough, but, honestly, from the Coens, we’ve been taught to expect more.

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