The Coen Brothers tend to make two types of films: Excellent (Fargo, True Grit, No Country for Old Men, The Big Lebowski, O Brother, Where Art Thou?) and disappointing (The Ladykillers, Intolerable Cruelty, Burn After Reading, Inside Llewyn Davis).
Their latest, “Hail, Caesar!” sadly falls into that latter category.
Which isn’t to say it’s a bad film. Even a disappointing effort by brothers Joel and Ethan Coen has its moments. But when you’re expecting excellence, falling short can be, well, disappointing.
Josh Brolin stars as Eddie Mannix, a “fixer” for a Hollywood studio during the cinema’s golden age of the 1950s. Eddie’s job is to keep the studio scandal-free and take care of any problems that might occur. It’s a full-time job, and then some.
For instance, aquatic actress DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson) is pregnant and not really intersted in getting married for the third time just so the child will have a father. And singing cowboy Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich) is having trouble transitioning into a more serious role.
But Eddie’s biggest crisis comes when star Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) is kidnapped off the set of the studio’s epic feature “Hail, Caesar!”
It may sound interesting, but it’s all in the delivery, and “Hail, Caesar!” just doesn’t deliver. There’s a lot going on but nothing goes anywhere. Problems are resolved off-camera or just left unresolved. The kidnapping is the most boring in film history.
Like I said, the film does have its moments. The attention to period detail is spot-on. The all-star cast is excellent, even if many of them aren’t given much to do or much screen time. There’s an impressive dance number by Channing Tatum and some men in sailor suits. There’s a cute aquatic dance number.
It’s clear the Coens have a fondness for ’50s Hollywood. It’s too bad they didn’t have a stronger story to center around it. There’s a goofy charm to “Hail, Caesar!” but no big laughs. Given the caliber of talent involved, the end result is — I’ll say it one last time — disappointing.