Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Men Who Stare at Goats

I'm going to flag The Men Who Stare at Goats for false advertising on two counts. First, there is only one guy who stares at goats, and the scene from the commercials where one goat in a line of four keels over is actually an out-take, not even in the movie. Second, the previews are cut like the movie is a comedy, but it's not. It alights with funny moments but is no comedy.

The Men Who Stare at Goats is at its core a war movie, taking place in Iraq in 2003. It ambles through the story - appropriately - because it plays like an indy film, though maybe with big-budget explosions. I'll skip the synopsis because it doesn't really have a plot, just a series of wandering incidents (which is not a bad thing). My recommendation is to save this one for rental. It's a good, but not great, anti-war war movie, not in the same league as George Clooney's Three Kings or the similarly themed Catch-22.

I couldn't help but see through the movie's fourth wall. The psychic soldiers called themselves "Jedi," which is fine, but the character of the reporter was played by Ewan McGregor, who actually played a Jedi master in the recent Star Wars movies. Either it was unintentionally funny or they ran with the inside joke too far. In other characters, I could see The Dude in Jeff Bridges' performance and a titch of Uly McGill in Clooney's guy (from O Brother, Where Art Thou?). Throw in Kevin Spacey chewing up the scenery and it got to be a bit much.

All in all, I think The Men Who Stare at Goats should have been a smaller movie. Its cast consisted of some of the best actors in the business today but they made it tough to see the movie for what it was and instead we saw movie stars in an actor's movie. Like I said, see it sometime but no need to rush to the theater.


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