Given how expensive going to the movie theater is for me, I do my best to research any upcoming movie I’m not absolutely sure about before I go and plunk down my hard-earned money to go and see it (Star Wars and James Bond are pretty much the only safe bets anymore). Hail Caesar! (2016) is an example of me going in, doing the research beforehand and being oh so very wrong about what I was going to get.
On paper, Hail Caesar! sounds like a great film. Set in the 1950s during the latter years of Hollywood’s golden studio era, the film follows Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin), a “fixer” who is trying to discover the whereabouts of big movie star Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) after he disappeared from the set of a biblical epic production (the titular Hail Caesar! which is a cross between Ben-Hur (1959) and Quo Vadis (1951). At the same time, unmarried synchronized swimming actress DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johannson) discovers she’s pregnant, which would cause a huge scandal if it became known. There’s also the career tribulations of Western star Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich) who ends up shoehorned into a “classy” drama picture that is totally unsuited for him.
So far so good right? Well…while the opening was pretty good, the rest of the film devolved into a convoluted mess. It turns out that Clooney’s Whitlock was abducted by a group of Communists who spend the rest of the film explaining their doctrines to the actor (said doctrine is explained in mind-numbing detail). And speaking of Communists, it’s also revealed that Burt Gurney (Channing Tatum), one of the studio’s biggest stars is a Communist sympathizer who defects to the Soviet Union via a Russian submarine that arrives just off the shores of Malibu (I couldn’t make this up if I tried).
Aside from the convoluted plot that practically careens from one crazy moment to the next with little to nothing to connect them (we’re basically getting four separate stories in one film), a lot of the action is cringe-worthy, especially Alden Ehrenreich’s scenes (this is why I’m so nervous about him playing Han Solo in the upcoming Solo film). There’s a particularly bad moment where, in a scene that runs way too long, Ehrenreich’s character Doyle is attempting to enter a room and say a “witty line” in this dramatic picture he’s been forced into. The audience is forced to endure over ten takes of this scene (at least it feels like that many if not more) where he stumbles over his lines over and over again. The only part of this film that I actually enjoyed are the “movie within a movie” moments where we’re treated to scenes from the movies that are being filmed on the Hollywood sets. These include:
- scenes from Hail Caesar! including one that directly parodies a famous scene in Ben-Hur where a character comes face to face with Christ and is awed by his presence.
- an Esther Williams-like synchronized swimming scene
- a Gene Kelly inspired song and dance routine
- scenes set in a traditional Western film
Outside of those scenes (which perfectly capture life in 1950s Hollywood) there’s really nothing to recommend this film.
What did you think of Hail Caesar! ? Did you enjoy it or do you also think it’s a dud? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day 🙂
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