Hail, Caesar! Is 'Plot-Free' Yet 'Utterly Satisfying'
The 17th film from the Coen brothers is 'pure Coenism, for better or worse'
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 5, 2016 1:34 PM CST

(Newser) Hail, Caesar! is the 17th film by moviemaking brothers Joel and Ethan Coen—of Fargo, The Big Lebowski, and No Country for Old Men fame— and tells the story of a studio fixer (Josh Brolin) searching for a kidnapped movie star (George Clooney) in 1950s Hollywood, though that plot is mostly an excuse for multiple movie genre parodies and song-and-dance numbers. The film is garnering mixed reviews, but as humorist John Moe tweets: "Few things make me as excited as a Coen brothers movie with mixed reviews." Hail, Caesar! also stars Scarlett Johansson, Ralph Fiennes, Channing Tatum, Tilda Swinton, and Jonah Hill.

  • Hail, Caesar! "is perhaps the most jagged, disjointed, and ramshackle of all the Coen brothers’ movies," according to Will Leitch at the New Republic. "It is also, from start to finish, one of the funniest films the Coens have ever made." The movie delivers "scenes that will make your grin rise up over your ears," while also showcasing a "certain muted contempt" on the part of the Coens. It other words: It's "pure Coenism, for better or worse."
  • Manohla Dargis at the New York Times calls Hail, Caesar! "a typically sly, off-center comedy" that "has more going on than there might seem." It "at times brings to mind one of those old plot-free film revues that featured a grab bag of studio talent performing in strung-together musical, comic, and dramatic scenes."
  • Ignatiy Vishnevetsky at the AV Club is less charitable: "To all those who would characterize the Coens as smug misanthropes: Enjoy this bounty of ammunition." Hail, Caesar! "lampoons Christian and leftist dogma by pitting straw men and stuffed shirts against whatever passes for common sense in the Coensverse."
  • At the Atlantic, Christopher Orr admits that while it might not be one of the Coens' best films, Hail, Caesar! is still an "unexpectedly sweet and utterly satisfying confection, a loving sendup of the Hollywood of yesteryear" that is "bright and genial" while lacking "the cruel edge of many of their comedies."