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Hail, Caesar!

6/10

Stars: George Clooney, Josh Brolin, Scarlett Johansson, Alden Ehrenreich, Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes, Channing Tatum, Alison Pill, Frances McDormand, Jonah Hill, Fisher Stevens, Clancy Brown, Christopher Lambert, John Bluthal

Director: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen

The Coen Brothers' satire on the glitz of early 1950s' Hollywood certainly has its bright spots, but sags like a deflated balloon every time George Clooney and his part of the story are on screen.

This is not entirely Clooney's fault: he certainly gets the didactic butt-end of the Coens' screenplay, as a thickish Hollywood star who, dressed for his part as a centurion in a time-of-Christ story, gets himself kidnapped by a very dull cell of Communist writers who plan to extract 100,000 from abrasive studio fixer Eddie Mannix (a real-life figure) - a terrific Brolin - for their major star's return.

Of far more interest, however, are Ehrenreich as a cowboy star parachuted embarrassingly into a drawing-room drama; Johansson as a sassy, Esther Williams-style swim star, who's strictly from Brooklyn and looking to adopt her own illegitimate child and avoid scandal; and Tatum as a song-and-dance man with feet of (Red) clay, who leads a gang of sailors in the film's best musical number, proving in the process that he's no slouch at the all-singing, all-dancing game.

But Swinton rather overdoes it as tiresome twin gossip columnists, and the film focuses far too often on Clooney and the oh-so-talky nest of Communist sympathisers. Having said that, McDormand's cigarette-puffing editor is a hoot, and, even with its longueurs, the film's best bits put it a cut above most American comedies today. The 12A certificate is pretty harsh.

David Quinlan

USA 2016. UK Distributor: Universal. Colour by efilm.
107 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 02 Mar 2016