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Movie Review

'Hail, Caesar!' is a Collection of Fun Fragments

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Writer-directors Joel and Ethan Coen can be depended upon always to present us with something unusual, and Hail, Caesar! is their most unconventional offering to date. 

It has only the slightest wisp of plot and isn't particularly consistent with what plot there is, and in fact consists almost entirely of a series of highly entertaining snippets related primarily by relationship with Josh Brolin as the head of a movie studio involved with half a dozen movies from a western to a Biblical epic entitled Hail Caesar: A Tale of the Christ, a plagiarism of the title of Ben-Hur. All of these productions are in some kind of trouble, and we get glimpses of all of them, though the glimpses do not necessarily illustrate the problems.

It seems likely that there is satirical intent behind all this, but the satirical intent does not seem to be very serious. The western is of a type I haven't seen since silent star Tom Mix, and the Biblical movie uses crucifixion crosses made from planed and sanded lumber I don't think I have ever seen used for crosses in anything. The imitation of Busby Berkeley's production numbers in the Thirties are, like all imitations of Busby Berkeley, too simple to make a point.

But like all the snippets in Hail, Caesar!, the Berkeley numbers are thoroughly entertaining; Scarlett Johansson has never looked more beautiful, the routines are beautiful, and the surprise when she starts to talk is beautiful in another way. The scenes from the Biblical epic manage to look both epic and cheap at the same time, I think because the armor looks so flimsy. Alden Ehrenreich is hilarious as cowboy who can't act and doesn't understand three-syllable words but is magic on a horse.

And so on. Hail, Caesar! is a collection of fragments, but the fragments are consistent fun.