HAIL, CAESAR!

— by Jeff Schultz

More like FAIL, Caesar. Just awful, painfully boring, rambling, pretentious and silly, laced with Marxist ideology, Catholic theology, and a vintage Hollywood cosmology the Coen Brothers visited with far more success in their 1991 BARTON FINK. It’s too desultory for madcap comedy, too superficial as a drama of ideas, and too dull to be entertaining. James Brolin tries hard to find a human being inside his role as studio production chief, but all the other characters are mere brushstrokes, largely uninteresting and not particularly likable. (Even Channing Tatum, who proves once again his myriad talents, this time as a singing/tap dancing sailor, ends up as a ludicrous plot device involving a submarine and a small dog.) The one happy exception is relative newcomer Alden Ehrenreich, who doesn’t have much more to do than assume an “aw shucks” demeanor and look handsome, but who is the only actor in the movie (and that includes George Clooney, thanklessly and incomprehensibly clueless) with true star power. Other than Tatum’s musical number, the genre parodies — a Biblical epic, an upper crust drawing room melodrama, an Esther Williams-style water ballet — are tired and irrelevant. I will say, though, I was knocked out by the recreation of a private booth at the old Imperial Gardens on Sunset, complete with fish tank. A couple of mai tais and a Pu Pu platter in that magical space would be time far better spent than at this deadly misfire.

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