Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Men Who Stare at Goats

"I'm a Jedi warrior"

This is the kind of movie that the critics love to destroy. Funny that I don't include myself in the term 'the critics' even though, essentially, I am one. The movie is fun, crazy escapism if nothing else, but it goes on the list of movies that reveal too much in the trailer. Note to the studios, when making a comedy it is better if you DON'T put all the best gags in the trailer. Anyway, it's sitting at 55% on Rotten Tomatoes, with a consensus thus: "Though The Men Who Stare at Goats is a mostly entertaining, farcical glimpse of men at war, some may find its satire and dark humor less than edgy." Honestly I can't really bring myself to disagree with that statement (I'll elaborate on that later.)

The plot, such as it is, begins with an aspiring journalist, Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor). In a short space of time, Bob discovers that his wife is cheating on him, with his editor no less, and has a rather tough time dealing with it. So he does the thing all guys do, he catches a flight to the middle east with the hope of writing a piece on the war effort. While there he stumbles upon Lyn Cassady (George Clooney) a somewhat unhinged character who is heading into the war zone, Bob seizes the opportunity and offers to join him. From here on out we are given glimpses into Lyn's past as a 'super soldier' as we follow the duo into the desert, in search of Lyn's former commanding officer Bill Django (Jeff Bridges). The whole situation is very similar to that of Spy's Like Us

Clooney delivers a terrific performance, but he does manage to maintain a certain level of consistency in that regard, the only movies that could be called 'iffy' on his part are (I think) Out of Sight, The Peacemaker and Batman and Robin. McGregor delivered his lines brilliantly, especially all the Jedi references, which of course contain a certain level of sub-text. Kevin Spacey is a cut above too, with his campy and over the top 'super villian' style character. It reminded me of his part in See No Evil, Hear No Evil, great stuff. Finally I have to acknowledge Jeff Bridges, who manages to deliver a very Dude like quality to his role. Bridges is one of those actors best known for comedy, that can also pull off really good dramatic work too (don't believe me, watch The Big Lebowski followed by Arlington Road and then we'll' talk.)

Sadly even great performances by the actors involved can't save the movie from a plodding slow pace that really detracts from what could have, and maybe even should have, been a great movie. The pace was somewhat similar to The International (another movie I criticized for its pacing) in that I was surprised to see that only 20 minutes had gone by when it felt like an hour. Things don't happen terribly fast int he movie, which is a bit odd for a 90 minute comedy. Additionally one scene didn't really seem to flow all that well into another, it was all very haphazard, again similar to The International.

The story is fun and the actors are clearly having a good time, but overall I just felt that the movie lacked that spark of greatness that I was hoping for. As a result I couldn't help but feel a little let down. It's not a bad movie, it's just not really all that good either. In regards to the humor, I have to agree with the RT critics in that it is 'less than edgy'. Though that is possibly less the fault of the writers and more a fact of life, the average audience today has been exposed, at times, to excessively dark and sometimes even morbid humor, such that lines that should be cutting close to the bone in this movie, have lost a lot of their impact. After the hilarious gags in the trailer I was hoping for something really fun and off the wall, instead I got a rather vanilla comedy/drama where all the best lines were spoiled in the trailer. Great potential, but sadly poorly realized on screen, I have to advise against spending money on this one, maybe rent the DVD if you're tired of staring at the walls, otherwise skip it.

Final Verdict on The Men Who Stare at Goats:

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