Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Blogorium Review: The Men Who Stare at Goats

Aside from telling you that The Men Who Stare at Goats is quite funny and that you ought to see it (rather than 2012, New Moon, or any of the other movies people were watching at Mission Valley tonight), I'm not certain what to say. However, I will try.

The Men Who Stare at Goats begins by saying "More of this is true than you'd like to believe", and as it's based on a book by Jon Ronson, I'd say much of the movie is entirely possible, albeit confounding.

The trailers don't necessarily misrepresent Grant Heslov's The Men Who Stare at Goats, but it does hint at a movie that's wall to wall laughs, which isn't necessarily the case. Goats is the kind of movie that keeps you chuckling for stretches of time after a particularly clever joke, but there are long stretches not intended to keep you guffawing.

What the trailer does (fairly) indicate is that the story crisscrosses between the development of "Psychic Spies" in the New Earth Army program - located at Fort Bragg for North Carolinian's in the audience - headed by Bill Django (Jeff Bridges), and the current adventures of Lyn Cassady (George Clooney), one of Django's recruits. Cassady is in Iraq shortly after the invasion on a "top secret mission", followed by would-be investigative reporter Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor).

Kudos for casting McGregor, who's been sort of floating around in movies since the Star Wars films wrapped up, which is a real shame. He's great in The Men Who Stare at Goats, both as a foil for Clooney but also because he good-humor-edly carries a LOT of Jedi jokes. The trailer indicates, but does not accurately represent, how many times you hear Clooney and other New Earth Army soldiers refer to themselves as "Jedis" or "Jedi Warriors". McGregor, at one point, even gets to say that "The force was strong" with Clooney.

The film is silly, yes, but it takes some steps to comment on American activity in post-invasion Iraq, particularly with a great cameo by Robert Patrick as an independent contractor who sees the country as his playground. However, just when you think you know where Goats is heading, the film throws you a curveball, and I honestly could not have predicted it would end up where it did.

As to the whole "Psychic Spy" or "remote viewer" plot points, Goats has some good natured fun poking at the skeptical reading Bob takes to Lyn's claims. After all, the New Earth Army has some very loose standards about invisibility and other "Jedi" tricks. But then they'll swerve in the other direction, like the cloud bursting scene, or some of Lyn's other on-point powers.

In addition to McGregor and Clooney being in rare form, Kevin Spacey is a scene-stealer as Larry Hooper, the serpent who enters New Earth's garden, and he gets some of the best lines later in the film. Jeff Bridges Bill Django is effectively Jeff Lebowski in the Army, and there's nothing wrong with that whatsoever. He has a nice shift later on, but I don't mean to spoil anything for you.

You should see this movie, because it won't be in theatres too much longer. There weren't many people there with us, but Mission Valley had pretty good business that night. It's a pity, because while I think The Men Who Stare at Goats will play at home just fine, it's harder to get movies like this in theatres when everyone goes for the tidal wave or the faux-vampires.

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