Friday, April 4, 2014

Hail Caesar (1994)



Oh boy, what can I say about this one? I wonder if Samuel L. Jackson will buy my copy from me just to get it out of circulation. He plays a mailman who is terrified of a dog. Yeah, real original. His first scene is really sad. And then, guess what, it becomes a running joke. They can’t let it go after just one bad scene. They have to create several bad scenes from it. And none of those scenes have anything whatsoever to do with the actual plot. But this movie is full of clich├ęs. There is even the sound of a record suddenly scratching when a man is shaken from his reverie by a harsh word from a woman.

Anthony Michael Hall directed this one as well as starred in it, so the blame falls mostly on his shoulders. The opening credits say “An Anthony Michael Hall Film.” The line should read, “The Anthony Michael Hall Film,” because it’s the only film he directed, thank fucking god. It’s supposed to be a comedy, but it’s so consistently unfunny that I wonder if it’s supposed to somehow be making fun of comedy.

Julius (Anthony Michael Hall) is in love with Buffer (Bobbie Phillips), a rich Republican’s daughter, who is upset about a number of things. “And my therapist is on vacation,” she whines. I think that line is intended to be funny, but I can’t be sure. Julius is in a band and cancels band practice to attend his girlfriend’s party. Annie, his female bassist, calls Buffer a “stuck-up witch.” Julius says, “What did you call her?” She replies, “A witch!” He says, “Oh, I thought you said something else.” Oh boy. It seems this movie is aimed at children so young that even the mere idea of saying a “bad word” is appealing to them. Fuck.

Annie then says a line that gets a laugh: “At this rate, we’d be better off starting a band in Russia.” But the laugh comes not from me, but from the drummer character on screen. The movie has to provide its own laughter. So sad. Characters laugh at each other’s bad jokes and lines throughout the film.

Julius’ girlfriend’s rich dad offers Julius $50,000 to stay away from his daughter. I’d take that money in a heartbeat. His girlfriend is an obnoxious stuck-up prude who shows no real interest in him whatsoever. He raises the offer to $100,000. But Julius doesn’t take it for some reason, and the scene goes on and on. And Julius asks for a chance to prove himself. But why? That girl doesn’t even really like him. So they make a bet that Julius can’t raise $100,000 in six months. Well, fuck, he was just offered $100,000. The father then offers him a job at the eraser factor, but that’s actually guaranteeing he’ll win the bet because the job isn’t going to pay Julius $100,000, but it will take up his time. Julius’ girlfriend, meanwhile, is chatting up two men. Julius turned down $100,000 for this bitch? Sorry: witch? And wait, what does Julius get if he wins the bet? Nothing.

Julius then says in voice over (making me think this was an afterthought, during editing): “Now, I know what you’re thinking: Caesar, you’re a fool, you should have taken the hundred grand. But give Caesar his due. I was young and in love.”

One slightly humorous thing is a protestor’s sign outside the eraser plant: “Make love not erasers.” I’m not sure exactly what they’re protesting, but the sign is slightly funny. One other good thing is that there’s a sexy Madonna poster in Julius’ office. And the third and final thing that I appreciate about this film is that when the father fires off a gun, there is the sound of a cat crying.

Anyway, Julius’ co-workers hate him for no reason. There is some sort of intrigue at the plant. But who cares? (And its resolution is done in like two seconds at the end, and is beyond lame.)

One problem with this film is we don’t give a fuck if Julius wins this bet or not. His plan is to record a demo and get a one-hundred thousand dollar record advance. Whatever. So we get a montage of him learning the job, practicing music, and trying to hand out demo tapes on the street – as if that could in any way help the band get a recording contract. The montage goes on a long time, and the song we’re forced to listen to during it is awful. 

Toward the end of the montage, Robert Downey, Jr. finally shows up. This is halfway through the film. But sadly, he’s terrible. He plays some sort of record company mail room employee who poses as an executive for the length of his scene. It’s a shame, but Robert Downey, Jr.’s usual charm is nearly completely absent here. And there goes my last hope that this film will amount to anything at all. (Robert Downey, Jr. shows up at the end in a car to announce that somehow he’s been made an agent. He shouts this bit of information multiple times, and then drives off. It’s probably the worst performance of his career – yes, including that fucking awful Iron Man movie.)

The movie angers me. The fact that money went into it instead of feeding the homeless or supplying me with alcohol is just wrong. This is how dumb this movie is… Julius looks at himself in the mirror and says, “Buffer, words can’t express how I feel about you tonight, so I’ve written this here little song,” which he then sings a capella. So it’s only the words. Dumb movie.

At one point, Anthony Michael Hall’s character says, “It’s all a big mistake.” Indeed. But even after admitting that, the film goes on to have a prison scene with references to the assassination of JFK that is played for humor but of course fails. And it goes on and on, and has a Malcolm X reference too. It has nothing to do with anything. And that’s in the last thirteen minutes of the film. This is also Judd Nelson’s only scene. In fact, this scene introduces three characters who have absolutely no impact or relation to the film’s plot.

Hail Caesar is a truly terrible film.

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