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Movie Review

Hail, Caesar! also known as “Hail Caesar,” “Ave, Caesar!,” “Salve César,” “Ave César,” “Ave, Cesare!,” “Ave, Cezar!,” “Ave, Cezare!,” “Ave, Cézár,” “Slove Cezariui!,” “Sveiks, Cezar!,” “¡Ave, César!”

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some suggestive content and smoking.

Reviewed by: Curtis McParland

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Crime Comedy Drama
1 hr. 40 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
February 5, 2016 (wide—2,200+ theaters)
DVD: June 7, 2016
Copyright, Universal Pictures click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Universal Pictures

Communism / Communists in 1950s Hollywood

The Disconnect Between Hollywood and America by “Wheel of Fortune’s” Pat Sajak

Hollywood and God—a survey conducted among the top TV writers and executives discovers how many believe adultery and other sins are morally wrong… Learn more

Featuring: Josh BrolinEddie Mannix—a “fixer” who keeps actors’ scandals out of the press
Channing TatumBurt Gurney—an actor and one of Mannix’s clients
George ClooneyBaird Whitlock—a Kirk Douglas-type movie star
Scarlett JohanssonDeeAnna Moran—an Esther Williams-type actress
Jonah HillJoseph Silverman
Tilda SwintonThora Thacker / Thessaly Thacker
Ralph FiennesLaurence Lorenz—a film director
Dolph LundgrenSubmarine Commander
Clancy BrownCommunist Screenwriter
Frances McDormandC. C. Calhoun—a film editor
David Krumholtz … Communist Screenwriter
Alison Pill … Mrs. Mannix
Alden Ehrenreich … Tobey—an actor and one of Mannix’s clients
more »
Director: Ethan Coen
Joel Coen
Producer: Mike Zoss Productions
Working Title Films
Distributor: Universal Pictures

“Lights. Camera. Abduction.”

Brothers Joel and Ethan Coen are back with their latest film, “Hail, Caesar!”. Josh Brolin stars as Eddie Mannix, the “fixer” for the production company Capitol Pictures. Eddie’s job is no easy task. But when one of Hollywood’s biggest stars, Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), goes missing, Eddie’s job becomes much more stressful and complicated. It does not end there, though. With the long work hours, Eddie is detained from his family, has a tough situation to handle with an actress, and just wants to get his production of “Hail, Caesar!” finally completed. Eddie is most certainly the man for the job, but pleasing Hollywood’s finest directors and stars leads to nothing but one problem after another.

“Hail Caesar!” is a welcome return from the Coen brothers after their depressing 2013 dramedy “Inside Llewyn Davis.” “Hail, Caesar!” has been marketed as a comedy, but has a similar tone to “Llewyn” yet not nearly as dark and dreary. It is a lighthearted Hollywood romp about the stresses of the entertainment industry and is more dramatic than it is comedic. The Coens provide strong direction (as always), the script is cleverly written, and the performances are charming and believable. The old-fashioned Hollywood tone adds a great touch to the film. Although the story gets a little messy and sidetracked with the sub-plots, it is still a very engaging nostalgic film from one of the best filmmaking duos in the industry today.

“Hail, Caesar!” may not be the best film made by the Coens, but it is certainly the cleanest. The film is a light PG-13, as there is some mild suggestive content, brief language, and quite a bit of smoking. Overall, though, the sexual content is fairly mild in “Hail, Caesar!”, especially when compared to most other Hollywood films today. Early in the film, a brief photoshoot takes place, and we see a woman wearing a suggestive, low cut milkmaid costume. There is also a swimming pool number while a film is being shot, and women are seen wearing modest swimsuits. However, one woman wears a formfitting mermaid costume that is also low cut. A character makes a reference to a “love nest,” and there is talk about a woman being pregnant out of wedlock. They are unsure of who the father is. There is mention of a character known for having his “afternoon trysts.” There is also a musical number involving male sailors dancing with one another. There is a slight implication of homosexuality, but since this film takes place in the 1950s, this act could go either way. After being drugged, a character says it was the first time he woke up without a woman next to him. The film also contains a few subtle and mild suggestive comments. Sodomy is briefly mentioned, and a bottom half of a statue is briefly seen with a leaf obscuring its privates.

The production of ”Hail, Caesar!: A Tale of the Christ” being filmed in the movie revolves around a fictional retelling of a Roman soldier’s encounter with Christ. However, the violence is very mild and sometimes a bit slapstick. During filming, we see some slaves from a distance being beaten and whipped by Roman soldiers (not graphic nor bloody), and we see a silhouette from behind of Jesus hanging on the cross. Blood is seen on His feet as a soldier approaches the cross. Both a man and woman get slapped once each, and a character gets her scarf caught in a film projector (played for laughs). There is mild Western gunplay during a filming sequence.

The language is mild to moderate, as there are only about four or five uses each of both d*mn and h*ll. B**ch is said once and a** is thrown in two or three times as well. A “Good lord” phrase pops up and a few mild insults like “cooc” and “crackpot” are said. Unfortunately, there is one abuse of Christ’s name (combined with the phrase “on a scooter”) and one more possible misuse drowned out during a musical number. The scene is very busy both musically and visually, so only the most observant viewer may catch this.

There are only a couple of instances of alcohol consumption, but there is frequent smoking by characters throughout which may be concerning to some viewers. Also, a character gets drugged and passes out after someone puts a powder in his drink. There is a brief reference to narcotics and a mention of “passing gas.” A character bribes other characters.

“But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.” —Isaiah 53:5

“Hail, Caesar!” is not really a spiritual journey, but the movie of the same title being shot in the film most certainly is. This has to be the Coen’s most spiritual film yet, as many questions about faith are asked, and there are positive nods to Christianity. A character visits a priest and confesses his sins. But he also seeks guidance and truth, and, later on, we hear of how Christ forgave our sins. The same man admits that he lied in the past and, to his credit, keeps trying to quit smoking. The Bible is viewed as a sacred Book, and the Gospel message is clearly conveyed by a Catholic priest. One scene involves a comedic theological debate, but it is tastefully done, as it is shared that Jesus is the Son of God and that He is love. A character says that “He [Jesus] saw sin and gave love” and that “God wants us to do what is right.” During filming, a character also says, “I saw the light of God”. He continues to say that Christ came to save and that He is the Truth. It is also said that our conscience comes from God.

“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.” —Exodus 20:7 (ESV)

I was very surprised and refreshed by how mild the overall content was in “Hail, Caesar!”. It still has its problems, though, since there is some light suggestive material on display in addition to a harsh profanity and a plethora of smoking. However, I still recommend “Hail, Caesar!” for ages 12+ based on maturity. This film is definitely going to be one of the safest options when going to the theater. “Hail, Caesar!” isn’t completely inappropriate for kids, but I am sure most will be bored and not appreciate the nostalgia and story behind it anyway. There are also plenty of mature themes that children simply won’t understand, as well.

“Hail, Caesar!” is a well-crafted and entertaining film that is a great alternative for adult entertainment, this day and age. I, myself, appreciated the religious themes incorporated into the film, while God and the Bible are highly respected amongst characters. The film approaches how various religions perceive God, but the Gospel is certainly the front-runner in this story. “Hail, Caesar!” may ask more questions about faith than it gives answers, but when we near film’s end, our eyes are opened to the One who came down to Earth to pay the penalty for our sins. The One who gave us peace, joy, forgiveness, and love. Our Savior Jesus Christ.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” —John 3:16

Violence: Mild / Profanity: Mild to Moderate / Sex/Nudity: Moderate

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive—As far as movies go, “Hail, Caesar!” might be considered an acquired taste, but the movie was unobjectionable morally, except perhaps a few lines at the end about sodomy. There were times I could not stop laughing, and there are scenes which actually made me quite contemplative. The lead figure is a morally upright Catholic with his biggest confession to the priest as smoking and then lying about it to his wife. The censorship of the 1950s may have been mildly criticized in the movie, but, to me, it made me appreciate the bygone era.

George Clooney’s speech at the foot of the cross was amazing… until we realize that he was merely reciting his lines. I recommend it and rate it non-offensive, and I rarely rate movies as such.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—Tim McKeown, age 53 (USA)
Positive— To those who dare to see the complicated plot, it turns to “a truth that we could see if we had but… ? Had what… ? The answer we find to the best most important lines in the movie the last three minutes? Seems we have a Christian story line to this film, subtle, not to scare away Christians and others who really don’t want to hear the message of Christ on the cross. more »
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Caesar J.B. Squitti, age 50+ (Canada)
Positive—The 20th movie directed by the Coen brothers is a big tribute to the Hollywood film industry of the 50s, through its many characters and films references. With its fantastic all-star ensemble cast, the film also shines by its directing, production design and many comical scenes. However, where it falls short is in its irregular tone and rhythm, making each scene feel episodic, as well as its anticlimactic ending, which, overall, leaves you wanting for more.

By the end, the surprising spiritual message dwells into good Christian questions about faith and God (which contrasts with the intellectual Communist debates). Despite a hilarious, but politically correct, discussion on the identity of Christ, the work of God is revealed to be where we want him to be, and that, ultimately, what feels right is guided by God. At least, it introduces brilliantly the movie “Risen” released a few weeks later.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Nicolas Inard, age 28 (United Kingdom)
Neutral—This is a very quirky movie, as is typical of the movies made by the Coen brothers. It was slow starting for me, but I finally got into the thread of what was going on and realized that this movie is a type of reverie about many issues, all of them related to Hollywood and the making of films. The characters are fairly two dimensional, vehicles for what the producers are trying to say or to ask. The subject matter addressed includes the art of movie making, the lifestyle of the actors, the Hollywood media, the issue of Communism, as it affected the movie industry.

I did not like the movie, but I did not dislike it, either. It was an unusual undertaking by the production team to ponder the Hollywood of the 50s. The best part of the movie is the storyline that deals with the movie that is being made, in which George Clooney plays a Roman soldier who encounters Christ hanging on the cross. He delivers an impassioned speech about the Godship of the Nazarene.

A good cast of actors, which includes the unique Frances McDormand, playing a weirdo movie editor, makes for light, but very odd, entertainment.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
Halyna Barannik, age 69 (USA)
Negative—Save your money. This movie is painfully boring. It’s not that I didn’t “get” all the references to old Hollywood—The Communist Scare, the gossip columnists, the studios owning the actors, the gay sailor musical numbers, etc. But it was like one big inside joke between the actors and director… and they were definitely the only ones who were laughing!

The only redeeming part of the movie was watching talented Alden Ehrenreich (Hobie Doyle) rope tricking and saying “Would that it t’were so simple” in his on-set exchange with Ralph Finnes (Laurence Laurentz). Other than those bits, I was literally sitting there with my jaw hanging open wondering if this movie was some kind of test to see how much money a movie with George Clooney could bring in on opening weekend, regardless of how bad it was!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Cara Galleher, age 49 (USA)
Negative—…As a Christian, I was offended by the Crucifixion scenes. I was especially disappointed by the scene where the studio head called a meeting of local clergy to see if they objected to his film—because they were portrayed as wimps and poor defenders of the faith. The writers thought they were being clever, but the script was simply pseudo-intellectual mush. This film is clearly the Coen brothers version of “Ishtar” and “Heaven’s Gate.”
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Leonardo, age 73 (USA)
Negative—This movie I would rate as blasphemous. No need to talk about the rest of the movie, because of the scene of the crucifixion of our dear Lord and Savior. They are on the Hollywood set where the crucifixion scene is. Looking at the back of the cross, a continuity man is checking the set, you can only see part of Jesus’ legs and feet, and the guy asks the man playing Jesus, “What’s your name?” Oh… that’s supposed to be funny. Hilarious! Then George Clooney comes as a Roman Centurion under the cross, staring up at Jesus and says a soliloquy recognizing that this is in fact the Son of God, and when you think he might finish well…. He forgets his last line, and starts cussing. How highly disrespectful of what is happening here. That alone is reason for me to say, stay away from this movie, making mockery of Jesus for a cheap laugh, that was not funny at all.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 2
—Robert Garcia, age 68 (USA)
Negative—This movie is blasphemous. George Clooney at the cross, staring up at Jesus, states that, in fact, this is the Son of God. However, he then forgets his last line and then starts cursing. This is a direct insult to God himself! That no one on this movie set realized that, tells you all you need to know about the people involved. If you love God, you will not rent this awful (and very boring) movie.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 1
—Richard, age 65 (USA)
Movie Critics

…It’s possible that some religious viewers might be offended by the film-within-a-film giving occasion for a few situational jokes in a religious context, but it certainly isn’t done irreverently. And neither Communism nor capitalism is outright condemned by the film itself, which I suppose some people may find offensive.
—Alissa Wilkinson, Christianity Today

…A light-hearted dramedy about a good man working in Hollywood. …
—Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spirituality and Practice

…Clooney has a blast adding Whitlock to the series of idiots he’s played for the Coens (‘O Brother, Where Art Thou?’, ‘Intolerable Cruelty’). It’s blasphemous fun watching him blow his lines in a cathartic scene with a crucified Christ. …
—Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

…Coen bros hit peak star-cameo in superb sister film to Barton Fink… “Hail, Caesar!” is a lot of fun, and beautifully crafted, too. One to savour. [4/4]
—Andrew Pulver, The Guardian

…The Coens have replaced the acid in their pens with honey, for now at least, and the result is an affectionate comedy that is also one of their most satisfying achievements. … [3½/4]
—Peter Howell, Toronto Star Newspapers

…Coen brothers have a point to make, but fail in their purpose… The flair for black comedy and deadpan that the Coens displayed so delightfully in their early hits has somehow abandoned them. … [1/4]
—Kate Taylor, The Globe and Mail

…a minor Coen Brothers comedy… a rare misfire for the writing-directing team… If you’re a Coen Brothers fan, “Hail, Caesar!” is worth a look. Just don’t expect their usual panache.
—Calvin Wilson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

…The Coen brothers’ latest film may not rank among their greatest, but it is an unexpectedly delightful celebration of the movies. …an unexpectedly sweet and utterly satisfying confection, a loving sendup of the Hollywood of yesteryear. …
—Christopher Orr, The Atlantic

…a love letter to Hollywood that doesn't quite hang together… There’s a lot going on in “Hail, Caesar!” and camera-bulb flashes of brilliance pop here and there. The Coens are in their woolly mode, riffing on their fondness for tall tales and outlandish, larger-than-life figures…
—Stephanie Zacharek, Time magazine

…“Hail, Caesar!” is a fizzy, fun farce… it is delightful.
—Ty Burr, The Boston Globe

…‘Hail, Caesar!’ isn’t a major Coen movie, but it’s super entertaining… There is much to savor… it’s a very enjoyable lark, especially for fans of old Hollywood. [3/4]
—Lou Lumenick, New York Post

“Hail, Caesar!” isn’t the first time brothers Joel and Ethan Coen have made a dud comedy… But they’ve never made one this half-baked and lazy. A barbed-wire valentine to 1950s-era studio Hollywood, as well as a meditation on the value of storytelling and the importance of movies, “Hail, Caesar!” is a goof with something to say. …Mostly, though, it’s just a goof, and not a particularly funny one. …
—Rene Rodriguez, The Miami Herald

…if you can’t stand any form of religious humor, steer clear. I think personally that the Coens’ portrayal of Mannix is a highly positive one, and the movie stays on the right side of the line of taste. …“Hail, Caesar!” is unmistakably positive towards Catholicism in particular, and the redemptive power of Christ more generally. …
—Carl Kozlowski, Catholic News Agency and PopZette

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