Rated R for language, some drug content and brief nudity, 90 minutes
Amusing but pointless "The Men Who Stare At Goats"
The very title of the new film "The Men Who Stare At Goats" is funnier than the movie itself. Based on Jon Ronson's book of the same name that explores the U.S. Army's use of psychic powers, the intriguing premise doesn't quite come to fruition in the movie. What should've been a laugh-out loud movie is merely amusing but well-acted yet too talky, and a disappointment considering it stars George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Kevin Spacey and Jeff Bridges.
Bob Wilton (McGregor) is a reporter trying to lose himself in the romance of war after his marriage fails, gets more than he bargains for when he meets special forces agent Lyn Cassaday (Clooney) who reveals the existence of a secret, psychic military unit whose goal is to end war as we know it. Bill (Bridges), the founder of the unit has gone missing and the trail leads to another psychic soldier (Spacey) who has distorted the mission to serve his own ends.
"The Men Who Stare At Goats" is a mildly entertaining but disappointingly pointless dramedy that falls flat more than it should, and some of the better scenes are in the trailers for the film. It's not a bad movie by any means but it could've been a lot funnier and made far more sense. The offbeat material is appealing, and the film is well-cast and well-acted. Well, what's the problem then? Probably that the direction from frequent Clooney collaborater Grant Heslov isn't that inspired, or that the screenplay by Peter Straughan lacks focus and comic fervor, going in too many directions without making any real statements on anything.
There are some fun moments along the way, and Bridges in particular is a hoot as the ponytailed ex-hippie Army Captain in charge of the "New Earth Army" movement. The best scenes are those that he commands, whose training methods are completely unorthodox and borderline ridiculous. Clooney's appealing as ever but contributes a lazy performance, McGregor is too bland and Spacey dripping with his usual benign sarcasm. And as for the goats, they don't even make an appearance until the final act of the film, in one of the film's more amusing scenes, a stare down between Clooney and the goat.
The initial chapters with the training sections featuring Bridges work the best, the rest seems like filler until a rather downbeat, pensive final few minutes. Some may find this hilarious and some of it is indeed funny, just not as funny as it could've been. "The Men Who Stare At Goats" is worth seeing if you like offbeat, very leisurely and talky humor. I didn't hate it, just not as much fun as it looks.