A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Hail, Cesar! is a star-studded (Josh Brolin, Scarlett Johansson, Channing Tatum, George Clooney, and more) Coen brothers comedy set in the 1950s that looks at how movie studios tried to hush any hint of scandal, lest gossip and unfavorable news about stars inhibit the bottom line. It's much milder than most of the Coens' other movies, but watch out for some iffy language ("son of a bitch," "hell," etc.), era-accurate smoking, social drinking, and a bit of violence (gunshots in scenes being filmed for a movie, kidnapping, slapping). There's also some cleavage on display and discussion of how to "legitimize" an unmarried, pregnant actress.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
HAIL, CAESAR! is a Coen brothers comedy set in 1950s Hollywood, where morals clauses run afoul of human mistakes. It follows movie studio mogul (and resident fixer) Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin), who must handle what just might be the most grueling 36 hours of his professional life. Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), the headliner of the studio's tent-pole film (also titled Hail, Caesar!), has been kidnapped, with his abductors demanding a $100,000 ransom. Mannix struggles to keep the news from local gossips (two characters played by the brilliant Tilda Swinton) -- while he also attempts to finally quit smoking; shield an unmarried, pregnant actress (Scarlett Johansson) from controversy; fend off persuasive job recruiters; and, yes, find Whitlock.
Is it any good?
The Coen brothers' genius is rarely disputed at this point, and HAIL, CAESAR! further cements their reputation as filmmakers with a singular vision and specific -- and hilarious -- sense of humor. This showbiz comedy is quippy, witty, fast-paced, and smart, if a little overfull (the A-list cameos are so plentiful -- and quick -- that they're sometimes distracting, though never unnecessary).
To a person, the ensemble is razor-sharp, eager, willing and able to poke fun at Hollywood's hypocrisy and ignorance, all while celebrating its simultaneous ability to concoct the gorgeous, feverish celluloid worlds that allow us to (mostly) overlook its excesses and weaknesses. The movie is at once in love with its subject -- the sets and costumes are sublime -- but is also its biggest critic, a balance so few filmmakers are able to keep. We're sold!
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Hail, Caesar! depicts Hollywood. How do you think things have changed, if they have, since the 1950s? What do celebrities trade for stardom? How are they presented as role models?
How does the film address serious subjects, such as the lack of respect and compensation for writers, while still making sure the comedy is at the forefront?
What's your take on Mannix? Is he a good worker or an unscrupulous enforcer?
- In theaters: February 5, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: June 7, 2016
- Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Channing Tatum, George Clooney, Josh Brolin
- Directors: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 106 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: moments of mild language, violence and sensuality
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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