Sunday, November 08, 2009

REVIEW: The Men Who Stare at Goats

The trailer for The Men Who Stare at Goats is manic, madcap zany and zippy. 

So is the movie - but not as much as I wanted it to be. It's a goofball lark, and that's fine - but I couldn't escape the feeling that the filmmakers missed an opportunity to make something even better. 

The premise all by itself was enough to make me say "sold." George Clooney stars as a kind of gifted psychic who was trained in an elite army unit commandeered by Jeff Bridges in pretty much "The Dude" mode. Ewan McGregor stars as a journalist investigating Clooney's story, which makes for a great joke because some of the soldiers are referred to as Jedis. And we all know that McGregor has some, shall we say,  experience in that area.

It sounds like a recipe for a great satire, and the movie made me laugh a fair amount, but it never made me laugh as loud as the trailer did.

Great comedies should ideally build momentum to a fever pitch, and that's were director Grant Heslov and writer Peter Straughan fall short. The movie starts in first gear, shifts quickly to second gear, and then never moves past that. The film just kind of amiably rolls along, spouting off a few good lines and staging a few funny scenes. But I kept wanting more.

It feels as though the filmmakers thought their silly premise was enough to sustain them. That may be fine for a two-minute trailer,  but even at a slim 93 minutes, the movie stretches itself thin. I also felt somewhat detached from it because it sometimes feels like the self-satisfied memory album of a group of pals who loved to kick back, get drunk and/or stoned and play Boston's "More Than A Feeling" over and over again. I couldn't quite relate.

I probably sound more negative toward the movie than I actually am. It's well worth seeing, and the cast in particular is fun to watch. The Men Who Stare at Goats is insane - it's just not quite insane enough. 

GRADE: B

1 comment:

Allison Dickson said...

I could have written this review word for word. Yesterday, as I walked to the car after leaving the theater, I discovered something about the movie: I didn't really give a crap about any of the characters. I felt like I watched these characters through a thick pane of bulletproof glass. I thought there was plenty of there in these men--Clooney and McGregor--to make me sympathize with them, but they never really brought me in and made me experience the movie with them.

Still, yes, I laughed a lot. It's a funny and intelligent film, and I loved the cast. I just didn't feel married to it in any way.