Saturday, November 07, 2009

The Men Who Stare At Goats

Maybe you've seen the trailers or you've seen or heard one of the many interviews lately being conducted with the man who wrote the book, Jon Ronson. Though the book "The Men Who Stare At Goats" is  non-fiction, it wasn't exactly a narrative so much as a collection of bizarre facts about different things the United States military has tried through the years. The film basically takes those same facts and organizes them around a fictional narrative, so when at the opening of the film, it reads, "More of this is true than you would believe", they're not actually lying.

I am somehow not able to bring myself to believe that attempting to train psychic super soldiers is either the stupidest or silliest thing the military has ever tried in order to gain the upper hand on, well, everyone. So, I'm not going to write a review of the film basking in the ridiculousness of the premise it suggests, because it is ridiculous, which is why a movie about it exists.

The movie itself is successful in delivering some good laughs. It's also successful in delivering a narrative that kept me guessing enough to keep me interested through it's ninety minute running time. Is this a new classic? No. Is it entertaining? Basically yes.

The Men Who Stare At Goats is a decent film. The cast does a great job of running with the material as far as they can, and it's a pretty good cast. George Clooney has been in this territory before, so it's not as if there's a long stretch here, giving new depth to his acting abilities. This character is slightly different than those he's played in Burn After Reading, Oh Brother Where Art Thou, and LeatherHeads. It's not the best material he's had to work with before, but he does a good job with it.

Ewan McGregor has also played characters not so different from this wide eyed journalist as well. If I'm honest about it, he was adequate, but I've seen him do much better in Nightwatch, A Life Less Ordinary,and Big Fish

Jeff Bridges is also reprising a role he's played before. The Big Lebowski has become a cult favorite, and might be Bridges most popular work (though recently I've been finding Tron fans coming out of the woodwork). Here as brain trust behind the crazy ideas the Army allows him to try, Bridges equally entertaining. His pony-tailed Bill Django is Lebowski if he'd been in the military.

Kevin Spacey shows up three quarters of the way through the film and adds some snap to things as the overly ambitious new recruit. We've also seen Spacey in territory like this before. He's convincing as a self absorbed asshole. Isn't he always though?

Honestly, I think that's the story of this entire film. It's not a bad film, there are definitely a few good laughs in there, but like all of the actors in the roles, there's nothing really risky going on here. I'm not sure if the film makers were relying on the novelty of the narrative to get them through, which I guess it does. On the one hand, it seems to rely too heavily on this novelty for it's story, and on the other hand it doesn't seem to deliver enough laughs when you look at the basic premise of the film. It's not something I'm walking away from regretting having watched, but it's not something I'd either be excited to watch again or I'd be enthusiastically recommending to friends. If you're a George Clooney fan, it will entertain you for ninety minutes. If you like the Coen Bros. less idiosyncratic comedies (Raising Arizona being more idiosyncratic), you'll be entertained for ninety minutes.

The only real critical comment I can relate about it is this, after that ninety minutes is over, you won't care about it anymore. Take that for what it's worth.

I can suggest this one as a rental or if you're not in the mood for something more risky that might be really great, but could also be absolutely terrible.

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