Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Men Who Stare At Goats – all that staring gave me a headache

Ever watch a film and you notice one of your favorite actors is in it, but they’re being horribly misused? Welcome to the world of the men who stare at goats, this film is packed to the gills with stars. Not just any stars, big names that you’ve seen in dozens of films that you’ve loved and know they can pull off most roles thrown at them. Ewan McGregor, George Clooney, Jeff Bridges, Kevin Spacey, Stephan Root and some names you may not recognize, but still deserve respect like Stephan Lang and Nick Offerman. Just take a moment to read that list again, now try to tell me you wouldn’t get excited to see a film featuring these actors. I would and I did and for the most part, when it works, it really worked, but when it didn’t you feel let down.

Remember when you’d get in trouble as a kid and you’re mother would say to you “I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed”? That’s exactly what I’d like to say to the maker of this film, Grant Heslov (who actually wrote the very well made good night and good luck). I shouldn’t be too hard on the film though because I actually enjoyed it, but thinking about it afterwards made me realize that there were huge gaps between quality jokes. I’m going to write the whole thing off as inexperience in filmmaking and will hope that Grant Heslov has the chance to perfect his craft and give us the big budget comedy that the men who stare at goats should have been.

Ewan McGregor plays Bob Wilton, a news reporter coasting through life and his career until he happens on an interview with a man who claims he has psychic powers and can travel anywhere in the world without leaving his home. Bob brushes the interview off as a fluke and through generic plot developments finds himself in Iraq where he stumbles upon a gentleman that Bob thinks he can get an un-ambitious story about contracts from which of course turns out to be a man whom is mentioned previously by the psychic who was trained by the military as part of a top secret classified experiment. This would be George Clooney’s Lyn Cassady, a man who it doesn’t seem to take too long to get going at full speed about this “top secret” training he went through, which essentially the rest of the film. The story plays out in two running storylines set 20 years apart, but back story involves Lyn’s training and introduces you to the squad, explaining each member’s quirks and the “current” storyline taking place in 2002, which we find Lyn and Bob entangling themselves in what Lyn keeps referring to as “his mission”. The movie seems to stall out around the end of the second act and picks up again during the third act for about 10 minutes before the movie ends only to end, in my opinion, on a sour note.

The film is a disservice to Ewan McGregor’s ability as an actor and I feel they could have used the supporting cast better. The only character in the film I liked from beginning to end was Lyn Cassady. George Clooney did a fantastic job playing a man who we have a hard time accepting can do the things he does, mostly because he tends to fail at them a lot, but when he gets them right boy does he get them right. One other thing I rather enjoyed was the near constant use of the term “Jedi” Especially around Ewan McGregor. So as disappointing as this film was, it was still worth watching, even if I should have waited for DVD and not so bad as to make it to my list of terrible films of the year. It finds itself hovering right in the mediocre middle

3 ½ “Debleated” goats out of five

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