Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Men Who Stare at Goats (2009)


After his wife leaves him for his editor, small town reporter Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor) heads off to Iraq in order to prove he's not the man his wife thinks he is. While there he runs into one Lyn Cassidy (George Clooney), a man whose name he had heard of during a previous interview he thought was bogus. Wilton learns that Cassidy was the poster boy for army psychic research during the 80's and decides to team up with him on a secret mission.

Having seen one too many commercials I have to say the marketing really takes the wind out of the sails of The Men Who Stare at Goats. So many of the jokes I was waiting for I felt like the film's best moments were robbed by over marketing the same jokes. At the same time I still found enough to enjoy with what was left of the Heslov film which sadly has more premise than execution despite having several downright great laughs. What I found perhaps most surprising that despite being a film about goofy army research, The Men Who Stare at Goats is a lot more about people who never found a place to belong.

Cassidy, played quite perfectly by Clooney, is a fun character on the surface, but as the film develops we really get into his personal insecurities, his social anxiety, and the sort of things that lead people to training to become a "jedi warrior." At the same time McGregor as Wilton is the film's sort of straight guy center. Kind of funny at times he provides sort of the outlier perspective of someone who wants so badly to believe because of his life's uninteresting but keeps skeptical. Jeff Bridges plays the underwritten hippy army Colonel Bill Django exactly the way you would imagine it having to be played. While Kevin Spacey is a great antagonist, as the failed writer turned psychic soldier Larry Hooper.

Unfortunately for all of them though there's little to be inspired by in the writing and directing of the film. It's obvious Straughan and Heslov knew the situations they were putting these characters in are funny, they just fail to really capitalize on the moments. They seem stuck with playing it straight, never going for the big laugh, instead sticking with a solid series of little jabs that hit your chuckle button, but that's about it. Of course as I've said having seen the commercials most of the films big laughs were already known to me, and I can't help but think this would be a much funnier film if I watched it again in 6 months or so when I'm not expecting the jokes. Granted that'll never really make this movie much more than maybe a 7.5 out of 10 in my eyes. So many great scenes are under-directed and written it just hurts that there's never really that home run laugh.

Despite a great premise and great setup, The Men Who Stare at Goats settles for the cheap jabs instead of the home run laughs. So that while it'll entertain and intrigue you it fails to be memorable or must see, and it should have been.

4 better thoughts:

RC said...

certainly interesting source material - i read the book earlier in the year - i'm impressed they were able to spin a movie out this bizarre non-fiction work.

Lemmy Caution said...

After a long string of poor to fair reviews, I'll wait for DVD on this one. Damn....that trailer was really promising.

Fletch said...

I'll agree with Lemmy that it was a bit of a letdown from the trailer. Not that I was expecting a tremendous film, but the laughs just weren't there (at least, not as many as I'd hoped for). Like you, I'll watch it on cable time and again, mostly due to the cast. Bridges was great, I enjoyed seeing Clooney maintain his straight face throughout the madness (the long hair was pretty funny, too), and McGregor didn't end up annoying me with his American accent. Also, Robert Patrick's small role was a hoot, even though he looks more like a lizard with each passing year.

The Spacey @ the wedding quip remains my favorite line of the movie. That's the kind of humor that should've been all over this.

Ging said...

I enjoyed the movie and your review. I agree that all the good humor was in the trailers and was hoping that there would be more humor. I would reccomend waiting for the DVD.

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