Sunday, February 9, 2014

Review 240: "The Monuments Men"

It was the greatest art heist in history.
(Not really though).

The Greatest Story Never Told
      The Monuments Men is a 2014 WWII drama/comedy. Originally scheduled for Christmas 2013, the film was delayed to this past weekend, taking it out of award contention. Now we can see why. Based on a book by Robert M. Edsel and Bret Witter, the film was directed by George Clooney (The Ides of March) and written by Clooney and Grant Heslov (Good Night, and Good Luck.). It follows a group of WWII soldiers, Stokes (George Clooney), Granger (Matt Damon), Campbell (Bill Murray), Garfield (John Goodman), Clermont (Jean Dujardin), Jeffries (Hugh Bonneville), Savitz (Bob Balaban) and Epstein (Dimitri Leonidas) as they team up with french revolutionary Simone (Cate Blanchett) in order to steal back art stolen by the Nazis and return them to their rightful place.

It's not that much fun, guys.
A Few Good Men

      I was really looking forward to this movie. I mean, the story of the Monuments Men is fantastic. A truly fascinating story from WWII about how the arts and cultures are worth fighting, and maybe even dying, for. I mean, how had this not been turned into a movie before now? Add into the mix a solid director with Clooney and an absolutely amazing cast and this was a surefire hit, right? Right? Look, I've heard to reviews like everyone probably has as well. And, while a will say that the film is far better than the negative reviews suggest, for me at least, it's still not nearly as good as this movie should have been. I does feel like everyone involved saw the great cast and heard the great story and assumed that that would be enough to carry the film. And, yeah, that is kinda true. The cast is so damn good that they make the movie pretty much worth a look just on the virtue of them showing up. The problem is the fact that the film seems stuck in a mode somewhere between serious WWII drama and fun period heist film.

Art Snub

      Often, the film asks it's audience to be highly invested it the lives of the Monuments Men without actually doing anything to make us care about them outside of "It's Bill Murray, so like him". The film goes by at an almost leisurely pace. Simply pop a few of the Men into a situation and hope the actors are enough to get you to care. And granted, that does work, it's only on a shallow level. If a character died, I was only upset that the actor was gone from the film. I never really did care what piece of art the men were rescuing nor did I care about their personal troubles, but I did get a kick out of John Goodman, well, just being John Goodman. The film eventually works it's way into a groove of "Find where art is, quirky misadventure, rescue art, uplifting speech, repeat" and while I can't say I didn't enjoy that, I certainly did find much more than a passing interest in it.

"Oh no. They sent me Garfield DVDs."
The Verdict

      The Monuments Men is by no means a bad film, but it's not the great one it should have been. The film pacing and story are so laid back that it can only really rely on it's strong actors and interesting basic story to get by. And while it does make for an always watchable, entertaining film, it's nothing more than a film you'd find on HBO one night a give a watch. What should have been one of the year's best films is instead a forgettable minor hit. Hopefully this isn't the last we've heard of the Monuments Men. The Monuments Men gets 4 stars out of 6. 

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