The Coen Brothers decided they missed out by not being a part of the Hollywood Studio System, so they banged out their own Studio System style movie. They did a great job of recreating the sets, songs, and looks of a movie from those glory days of yore.
The problem with Hail, Caesar is that it’s a movie about making movies that drops scenes from three or four movies into a story where they don’t belong. The ode to On The Town was fun, but pointless. And so was the Esther Williams style water ballet bit. The singing cowboy portion of the show was mercifully short, but also seemed to be shoehorned in. Unlike a movie like Victor/Victoria that used it’s story as a framework to hang it’s song and dance numbers from, Hail, Caesar feels like it can’t make up its mind if it wants to be a musical or just make fun of musicals.
The main character here is a man who runs the studio and the subplots all have to do with the many problems his stars get themselves into. One gets himself kidnapped by communists, one is pregnant without being married, one just flat can’t act, and so on and so forth.
There are a lot of Voice of God voiceovers made to sound a bit like Cecil B. DeMille. These are often spoken over vast panning shots of the mythic movie studio, which seems to be about ten times bigger than any real movie studio ever was. These shots were great and were very reminiscent of That’s Entertainment, a movie where has-beens walked around the empty lots and talked about the Glory Days.
Basically, Hail, Caesar! was a movie made to make you think of other movies. Better movies? Some, sure. Worse movies? Yeah, some of those, too. So how was Hail, Caesar itself? Eh, ok.
Hail, Caesar was fun in spots, but overall, it was much ado about nothing. I loved the cast, the sets, the music, and the look of this movie. The only thing lacking was the story. The main story about the Studio Boss deciding to go or stay was pretty damned weak. The kidnapping story was kind of silly. All the many problems that came up had bafflingly simple solutions. Think Dorothy getting to the storm shelter before the tornado strikes simple.
My advice? Watch Singing In The Rain, or That’s Entertainment instead.