Entire family: No
2016, 106 min., Color
Rated PG-13 for some suggestive content and smoking
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Featured audio: DTS-HDMA 5.1
Bonus features: B
Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD
I’ve often thought that there are two main types of comedy: joke- and gag-filled ones that go for nonstop laughs, whether high brow or low, and the more subtle offbeat satires that make you smile with recognition, whether dark or infused with the positive energy of nostalgia and homage. The latter is the preferred style of people like Wes Anderson and the Coen brothers, so don’t be misled by a Hail, Caesar! trailer that was edited to showcase all the laugh-out-loud moments in the film. People who see the term “comedy” and think ha-ha funny, be warned: Hail, Caesar! isn’t as much LOL as it is a gentle satire and loving tribute to the final years of the Golden Age of Hollywood, and the genre films that were mass produced on big-studio back-lot sound stages.
That means, for families wondering if this PG-13 movie is just the ticket for home movie night, the answer is yes—but only if your kids are older and have an intellectual curiosity that delights in seeing flawed individuals making their way through a life that offers moments of absurdity. It’s a yes, too, if your children can appreciate period films and the stories they tell that differ so much from our contemporary world. Tonally, Hail, Caesar! is like Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel with less quirkiness, and visually it’s like watching movies made in the early 1950s. That makes for a winning combination unless your kid thinks old movies (and facsimiles like this) are boring.
As they did with Barton Fink (1991), Ethan and Joel Coen revisit the world of Hollywood unmasked, where left-leaning intellectuals and powerful desk jockeys are funny in themselves, as politicians were in Daumier’s time—so much so that the 19th-century political cartoonist had only to draw them as they were and trust that it would be enough to make his audience smile. Hail, Caesar! operates along the same lines.
Trailers and the title make Hail, Caesar! look more Roman epic than it is. This film isn’t about the making of a single picture, as we saw in Hitchcock or My Week with Marilyn. The plot follows a day in the life of studio executive Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin), the head of physical production at Capitol Pictures whose main job, it seems, is “fixer”—the troubleshooter who keeps the cameras and publicity juggernaut rolling. Eddie has been approached by Lockheed Corporation to take an executive position with them, but he clearly loves being a part of the movie business—enough to make him stay? That’s the $50,000 question.