Hail! Caesar, the new comedy by directors Joel and Ethan Coen hits theaters tomorrow across the United States, and while the Coens have earned themselves high-status in Hollywood, even earning Academy Award nominations for such heavier fair as Fargo, True Grit, and Inside Llewyn Davis, their comedic work often times has left American audiences polarized.
Certainly, they've hit the mark several times when it has come to pure comedy, an example of such would be 1987's Raising Arizona, and more recently The Big Lebowski and O Brother, Where Are Thou?--the previous, Lebowski, earning major cult status in the wake of its release. There is even a yearly gathering of fans of the movie who dress up like characters, quote lines, drink and bowl at a bowling alley in the Midwest.
And while these movies have maintained their fan bases for many years, it's the Coens' foray into genre-bending; the point where they mix-genres like comedy with who-dun-it, or remade slapstick films of the Hollywood 40s, with movies like Burn After Reading, Intolerable Cruelty, and Hudsucker Proxy that have caused audiences to leave the theater scratching their heads.
Which it why it's fascinating to consider the premise of Hail! Caesar, the Coen's 17th feature film, and it's premise: "Eddie Mannix"-- a Hollywood "fixer" is tasked with getting a movie production back on track after its star, "Baird Whitlock," played by George Clooney is kidnapped by a grouped called "The Future." Whereas, Hail! Caaser is being marketing across American TV as being a goofy comedy of sorts, its central premise of a kidnapping in 1920's Hollywood is a notion that is anything but humorous. And yet, its likely that the story line of Hail! Casear will more likely be the same spirit of those previous Coen Brothers' films that left audiences completely polarized. It's altogether possible that we may have another Hudsucker Proxy on our hands when this is released tomorrow.
The ultimate question in mind is: What can we expect from Hail! Caesar tomorrow? Will it be just a comedy or will it be a slapstick comedy in the spirit of the classic movies of the 1920s, 1930s, or 1940s that came out of Hollywood like Bringing Up Baby, Ball of Fire, or any other from slapstick era. There is a part of all this, that hopes that Hail! Caesar exudes some of the aesthetic and comedic ideal that the Coens' really hit a home run with in The Big Lebowski. Certainly, based on the preview for the movie that has been in heavy rotation the last couple weeks on American TV, we'll be treated to something that seems like it could be very unique in terms of Hollywood releases, as we know them today, but really, not so unique, in the world of the Coen Brothers.