Belfast Telegraph

Hail, Caesar! Review: Coens badly misfire with comedy light on laughs

When the mighty fall, they fall hard.

Writer-directors Joel and Ethan Coen, who each have four Academy Awards on the mantelpiece and were nominees again this year for their script for Bridge Of Spies, descend from the filmmaking firmament with a sickening thud.

Hail, Caesar!, the brothers' screwball valentine to the golden age of Fifties Hollywood when studios nurtured, protected and controlled big name stars, is a deeply disappointing exercise in period style over substance, characterisation and wit. It's hard to believe that the mercurial siblings who gave us The Big Lebowski, Fargo, O Brother, Where Art Thou? and No Country For Old Men could be responsible for this flimsy whimsy.

Admittedly, there are a couple of stand-out musical sequences that quicken the pulse and remind us of the Coens' genius.

As usual, the ensemble cast shimmers with comic talent, but here, almost everyone is squandered in thinly sketched roles.

Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) masterminds production at Capitol Pictures, keeping the tawdry secrets of his leading men and ladies out of rival gossip columns penned by twins Thora and Thessaly Thacker (Tilda Swinton).

He also has to massage egos on and off the set of the studio's big budget epic, Hail, Caesar! - A Tale Of The Christ, starring matinee idol Baird Whitlock (George Clooney).

Hail, Caesar! is depressingly light on laughs and the Coens' trademark eccentricities.

The fleeting appearance of a sparkling one-liner - "God doesn't have children, He's a bachelor and He's very angry" - breaks up the mediocrity.

Even the underused Channing Tatum is reduced to dancing for his proverbial supper in a tight-fitting sailor's outfit.

Magic Mike XXL, all is forgiven.

Two stars

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