By Jonathan Decker (Family therapist, film critic)
WHAT'S HAIL, CAESAR! ABOUT?
A 1950's Hollywood fix-it man (Josh Brolin) ponders a career change while working overtime to rescue a kidnapped star (George Clooney) and cover-up multiple scandals.
IS IT ANY GOOD? (GRADE: C+)
I was ready to love Hail, Caesar! Between the star power of the actors and the writing-directing skill of The Coen Brothers, there was plenty to look forward to. Alas, it never really comes together in a satisfying way.
The wardrobe, set design, and recreation of classic movie styles are all dazzling. There are a few standout moments for certain, among them Channing Tatum's song-and-dance number, Scarlett Johanssen's synchronized swimming, Ralph Fiennes' exasperation at a struggling actor, the pitch-perfect details of the faux religious epic Hail, Caesar (effectively a movie within a movie), and a bit where Brolin asks for theological consultation from several different faith leaders.
Sadly, apart from these scenes, the film rarely delivers the charm it's clearly going for and it bores more often than not. The story meanders, scenes run entirely too long, it struggles to find a theme, and it's just not as fun as those few bright scenes show it could have been. Still, it's worth a rental if you're interested.
IS IT OKAY FOR YOUR KIDS?
Hail, Caesar! is rated PG-13. There are a handful of moderate profanities here and there, but no f-words. There is mention of a man “engaging in sodomy” to get a role. A starlet's out-of-wedlock pregnancy is discussed, along with a shotgun marriage as a solution. A star's drinking and womanizing is referenced. There is some slapstick violence and comically suggestive dancing by male actors who don't seem to realize what they're doing.
On the plus side, the protagonist is a Catholic family man whose faith is seen as a positive influence on him; he does some ethically-questionable things, but his beliefs keep him grounded and he tries to make penance for wrongdoings. Also, a Western actor seems to be a genuine, morally-driven gentleman. While there are religious overtones to the film, the humor is not making fun of faith so much as hedonistic Hollywood actors playing pious roles.
ANY WORTHWHILE MESSAGES?
Listen to your inner voice and do what you think is right. Don't believe everything people tell you. Hollywood has plenty of corruption, but there's some decent people as well.
If you're interested in Hail Caesar, check out Raising Arizona my favorite Coen Brothers comedy.
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