Alison Rosa
Leah Greenblatt
February 03, 2016 AT 06:47 PM EST

Hail, Caesar!

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
PG-13
runtime
106 minutes
Wide Release Date
02/05/16
performer
George Clooney, Josh Brolin, Scarlett Johansson
director
Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
genre
Comedy, Drama, musical

We gave it a B+

A giddy technicolor love letter to Hollywood’s golden age, Hail, Caesar! isn’t the Coen brothers’ first ’50s set-piece, or even their first movie about movies. It’s Coen lite, basically, but still filled with their best signatures: cracked humor, indelible characters, and cinematography so rich and saturated you want to dunk a cookie in it. The only thing missing is a good bloody murder. Josh Brolin stars as Eddie Mannix, a studio fixer with a lot to fix: His leading man (George Clooney) has been kidnapped by Communists, his prize mermaid (Scarlett Johansson) is knocked up, and the company cowboy (Alden Ehrenreich) needs to learn how to straddle a new role, stat. Plus there’s a conniving pair of twin gossip columnists (Tilda Swinton, double-dipped) to contain, fussy directors to pacify, and a “civilian” job offer that could take Eddie away from it all.

The plot’s plate-spinning is mostly an excuse, though, for the Coens to play with their favorite thing: filmmaking. There are at least five movies set inside Caesar!—including a sublimely silly song-and-dance number starring Channing Tatum as a tap-shoed sailor—and each one from sword-and-sandal epics to costume melodramas and hokey Westerns, gets a note-perfect tribute. It’s all too winky and meta to amount to much in the end, but it’s also too fun to care. B+

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