‘The Men Who Stare at Goats’
Rating: 3/5 stars
Directed by: Grant Heslov
And starring: George Clooney, Ewan McGregor and Jeff Bridges
The pitch: Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor) is a journalist in over his head when he decides to go to Iraq during the earlier stages of the invasion. While waiting to cross the border, he meets Lyn Cassady (George Clooney), who is also on his way to Iraq on a super-top-secret black ops mission. Cassady claims to have been part of the New Earth Army, created by army hippie Billy Djanjo (Jeff “The Dude” Bridges) 20 years earlier. This section of the Army was trained in mental combat to see if love and peace can win wars. The answer is no, but we see through multiple flashbacks that the group still tries to become “the first superpower to develop super powers.” The narrative then continues to showcase Cassady and Wilton floundering in the desert, constantly lost and getting captured multiple times. Cassady’s rival Larry Hooper (Kevin Spacey) appears midway though the film, helping in its lack of conflict.
The good: Some moments showcase absurdity at its best. In the opening, for example, a commander runs full force into a wall in an attempt to go through it. Clooney is another high point, who, even when insane, is as smooth as ever and anchors the film. Being a dork could be the coolest thing ever. McGregor has some of the best lines, utilizing his innocent eyes for making lines like “What is a Jedi warrior?” almost go unnoticed. Because nothing he would know about that!
The bad and the ugly: The movie does not have enough steam to last its entirety, even though it comes in at only 93 minutes. The underhanded, deadpan jokes start off funny but are not enough to cover up the weak narrative, which tails off just when you expect it to finally culminate in something.
The bottom line: The film is powered by its actors and worth seeing for their battle of wits. The viewer is kept in good humor throughout, but nothing is accomplished or really happens. The satire could be pushed further, and the gags could be more outright funny instead of subtle. The film comes in as groovy but not far out.