“Fail, Caesar” (Coen Brothers Drop Another Bomb)
“Hail, Caesar!” is a cringe worthy two hours of excruciating boredom, a thoroughly aimless and fruitless trial of audience perseverance, haphazardly bundled into an incomprehensible splotch of snippets sure to stain an otherwise stellar legacy of previous films produced, written, and directed by the Coen Brothers, a.k.a. Ethan Coen and Joel Coen.
Not since “Inside Llewyn Davis,” released just two years ago, have the Coen Brothers rolled out such an exhaustive bummer. Sure, with every creative force, a few misses will occasionally interrupt the many hits. And, perhaps the bar has been perched a bit too high for the tandem that’s given us “No Country for Old Men,” “The Big Lebowski,” “Miller’s Crossing,” and “Fargo.” However, not only is the pair’s latest offering not even close to their usual lofty standards, even as a quirky curiosity “Hail, Caesar!” would still be instantly forgettable except for the lingering mass detachment and a general lack of any impression whatsoever made by this mind-boggling mess that seemed to have been written and conceived in the amount of time it takes to sit through another Coen contribution, “Burn After Reading,” adroit advice the duo would have been well-advised to follow upon examining the final draft that ultimately led to this cinematic shambles.
For starters, “Hail, Caesar!” is burdened with the insurmountable strain of being an unfunny comedy. That’s a bit of a problem, to say the least. One gets the impression this movie was much more fun to make for the cast and crew than for us to watch afterward. How could it not be, given the loaded cast which includes Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Alden Ehrenreich, Ralph Fiennes, Jonah Hill, Scarlett Johansson, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton and Channing Tatum, all giving camp performances? Still, we’re somehow made to feel we weren’t invited to this party yet still accidentally got in somehow, left to fend for ourselves while all the well-connected people tell inside jokes and fawn over each other.
The aimless plot goes nowhere, meandering through a disconnected series of orchestrated homages to postwar (late 1940s) Hollywood, until the movie ends abruptly (and might I say — mercifully). A major studio star played by Clooney is kidnapped for ransom money, setting off a chain of uncoordinated events which seem like lame excuses to introduce overly-long musical sequences and dance numbers, one atop one another, each discombobulated scene concluding with movie audiences staring blankly at the screen while fumbling our lips and collectively murmuring to ourselves, “what in the hell was that?”
“Hail, Caesar!” pays a grimacing tribute to the most popular genres of the Hollywood’s so-called “golden era” — including religious and historical epics, big-screen westerns, lighthearted romances, wartime dramas, and movie musicals. Unfortunately, it does an uncomfortably embarrassingly job honoring any of them and would probably go so far as to dissuade any moviegoer from chancing some of the wonderful period films which are mimicked so painfully. Unlike the madcap comedies of Mel Brooks — which were so unpredictably funny for their time and remains hallowed territory that this film appears to aim for — now four decades after the Brooks’ comedies, we know that we’ve been down this familiar route several times before and seen it in far greater splendor with a much better unconventional comedic filmmaker mastering his specialty, versus admittedly brilliant filmmakers way out of their element.
Bottom line — I would have walked out had this movie not been stamped with the usual trustworthiness of the “Coen Brothers” pedigree, and thus been better served by saving that extra 90 minutes of wasted time and ultimate mental frustration. Fortunately though, I did salvage a fresh writing topic, the fruit of which has come to ripen here.
Inexplicably, some movie websites and film critics have given “Hail, Caesar!” positive reviews. They must have seen a different movie or not sat in on the film I experienced, which brought virtually no laughs from a Monday night showing in Las Vegas, numbering about two dozen souls apparently bored out of the skulls. Aside from how this frivolous rubble of nonsense was produced in the first place, these positive reviews are an even more baffling mystery.
This film is a fiasco and arguably the worst Coen Brothers movie ever made.