Home Video Picks & Passes 06.12.16

Hail, Caesar! (2016) — PICK
Zootopia (2016) — PICK

A couple of offbeat films are among the latest home-video offerings, one a fond spoof of 1950s Hollywood, the other a socially conscious animated talking-animal fable.

Hail, Caesar! is the latest from the Coen brothers, who alternate between darkly comic dramas (True Grit; No Country for Old Men) and darkly dramatic comedies (O Brother, Where Art Thou?; The Big Lebowski).

Hail, Caesar! is one of their comedies — and it feels like a film made just for me. There’s a Catholic protagonist who goes to confession daily, a Golden Age Hollywood setting, a Jesus movie epic in the making and a theological round-table discussion of clergy regarding the dual natures of Christ — plus Gene Kelly-esque hoofing, musical synchronized swimming à la Esther Williams, a crooning cowboy number and more.

Josh Brolin plays devoutly Catholic studio “fixer” Eddie Mannix, whose work involves discreetly managing the indiscreet behavior of studio stars and keeping scandals out of the headlines. George Clooney plays a big star cast as a Roman centurion in a life-of-Christ film called Hail, Caesar! A Tale of the Christ. Mannix’s faith is respected, and Clooney’s character is surprisingly moving while filming a big scene that he doesn’t really understand — a sly commentary on the power of art to outstrip the cluelessness of artists.

Zootopia, from Disney, is an original tale about a world of anthropomorphic animals in which predators and herbivores have put their differences aside and come together as equals — for the most part. Old tensions and animosities occasionally surface, and a bunny like Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) faces an uphill battle trying to make it as an urban cop, a profession dominated by predators and large herbivores.

There’s a lot of social commentary, and parents highly averse to political correctness will want to steer clear. But it plays less as allegory than parable; predators and herbivores aren’t aligned to any actual racial or other sociological divide.

I ultimately found Zootopia more intriguing for the world it creates than for its rather formulaic plot. Wouldn’t it be more interesting if a parable of diversity, tolerance and acceptance had misguided or misunderstood individuals but no villains? Still worth seeing.


Caveat Spectator: Hail, Caesar!: Some sexual references and a bit of ribald humor; cursing, crude language and a single instance of profanity. Teens and up. Zootopia: Some scary action and menace; mildly suggestive humor. Older kids and up.