THE Coen brothers return to comedy with Hail, Caesar! after an eight-year break to focus on other genres.
While they may be a touch rusty with the laughs, their eye for detail is definitely intact.
In the 1950s, head of production at Capitol Pictures Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) is constantly putting out fires, trying to keep the scandalous lives of the stars away from snoopy rival gossip columnists Thora and Thessaly Thacker (Tilda Swinton) and out of the tabloids.
He has his work cut out for him when actress DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson) becomes pregnant out of wedlock and a group of studio writers kidnaps Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), the star of the studio’s biggest production half way through the shoot.
There are some stunning production sequences with technical wizardry going on (the production design is on point), and a hilarious elongated scene in which Mannix queries representatives from various religious groups on the depiction of God in their latest film makes this worthwhile.
Its strengths lay in the nod to and recreation of the grand, big budget epics from the studio system of the era.
There are familiar themes of showbiz and religion the Coen’s have touched on before, but their affection for the targets of their satiric digs and characters is infectious.
Even when their cast is not always given the most to do – many big names have little more than glorified cameos – they are perfectly selected and make the most of what they have.
Channing Tatum continues to impress even in a relatively small role as a musical star.
While not as sharp as their earlier comedies (Burn After Reading had me in stitches) Hail, Caesar! will elicit a few hefty giggles.
Hail, Caesar! (M)
Directed by: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Starring: Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Tilda Swinton
Three and a half stars
Review by: Julian Wright
In cinemas now