Saturday, January 9, 2010

Day 305: The Men Who Stare At Goats (2009) - Rank 3/5


Ah, disappointment, thy name is "The Men Who Stare At Goats." I shouldn't be too surprised, for it happens semi-frequently for me. But I cannot deny that the trailer, as well as the films basic premise, had me pumped for an exercise is Clooney's trademark, wry humor mixed with a script that smacked of Charlie Kaufman. Instead, I found the film to be rather uneven. The basic premise is a Podunk newsman flies to Iraq to generate guilt with his adulterous wife and happens across a special forces operator who was once involved in secret army programs that trained troops to have psychic and telekinetic powers, as well as other rigmarole.

It's not that I found the film utterly terrible. It's just that I regarded it as a project with a tremendous amount of potential that turned out mediocre (an outcome that often vexes me more than if the story truly is tripe). Clooney seems to go through the motions of his "Jedi warrior" Lyn Cassidy, but all too often, I feel like he, along with Jeff Bridges and Kevin Spacey, are just being quirky for the sake of being quirky. As for Ewan McGregor's Ann Arbor reporter, let me just say this: "Ewan, I regard you as a great actor, though you make questionable choices from time to time. In this case, the most questionable choice was your decision to speak in an American accent that doesn't exist in the United States. Please avoid doing so again in the future."

The original material source was a book by the same name. While I've never read it, I've come to understand that it is not a narrative, nonfiction piece, but rather a collection of stories and facts regarding the avant-garde programs of the military. If that's the case, I can understand Peter Straughan's difficulty in adapting the source material into a somewhat linear tale. However, it can be done. I will cite "The Mothman Prophecies" as a prime example, for the majority of the movie is fictionalized and nowhere to be found int eh book, yet the script evokes the same, spine-tingling sensation that reading John Keel's novel does. I suppose that logic dictates that I should read "The Men Who Stare At Goats" before making the final verdict, for the film might also encapsulate the spirit of the text, but the film didn't exactly persuade me to carry out that venture.

Watch the Trailer

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