Friday, February 7, 2014

The Monuments Men review

Old guys going to war. Kind of like The Expendables. Except with classical art and more talented actors.
The Monuments Men is the true story of a bunch of rag tag art historians who went into battle grounds and Nazi salt mines to save and retrieve stolen statues, monuments, and ancient art. The movie revolves around Frank Stokes (George Clooney), who recruits his team to tackle this truly "monumental" job involving Rembrandt, Da Vinci, and Hitler. (See what I did there? Monumental. Monuments Men? Get it?). I have to admit, when I first heard about this movie, I was monumentally excited. It just seemed like such a monumentally awesome film (Okay, I'll stop with the 'monument' puns). I happen to be a pretty big fan of most of George Clooney's directorial efforts. I loved Confessions of A Dangerous Mind. The Ides of March was pretty damn good. I'd heard Good Night, and Good Luck was great also. I admittedly am also a big fan of Clooney in general. I mean, how can you not like the guy? He's smoother than extra smooth peanut butter and he is the essence of suave. The other parts of this movie looked great too. The rest of the cast, for one. Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Cate Blanchett, and that guy from The Artist. It also had a seemingly exciting premise. I thought it was going to be a major Oscar contender. How could this not be good? It was originally slated for a Christmas Day release date, as were many Oscar hopefuls, like The Wolf of Wall Street for one. Then it was pushed to early February. Often, when a movie is pushed back like that, it is very bad news. This means it probably wasn't good enough for the Christmas slot, so it got pushed to be released next to stuff like I, Frankenstein and the RoboCop remake. I kept my hopes up still. Even when increasingly negative buzz kept rolling in, my blind Clooney loyalty pushed those doubtful thoughts away. Well, I'll tell you that The Monuments Men is nowhere near as bad as some reviews say it is, but it's nowhere near as good as I expected either. The Monuments Men isn't the groundbreaking Oscar bait it was originally marketed as. It's much more of an Indiana Jones-meets Oceans Eleven-meets Valkyrie adventure film. Which is to say, I enjoyed it quite a bit. It's not a really good movie, but it has a lot of good things about it and it's enjoyable to watch. The best and most obvious strength the film has is it's impeccable casting. The cast here is nothing short of legendary. Older "classic" greats like Bill Murray and John Goodman going up against new Hollywood talents like Jean Dujardin and Matt Damon. The chemistry with all the actors is terrific. They work together like they've been working together for years, which in the case of Clooney and Damon, I guess is true. Goodman is his usual jokey self. Which I have no problem with. Murray plays his deadpan comedic role like he often does, but adds some real emotion in there. Murray definitely has real talent. It's just a surprise how seldom recognized he is for it. Clooney and Damon seem to coast by on mostly charm, charisma, and dashing good looks. I actually don;t have a problem with that. For this flick, charm and looks are all they need. I think the fault of this film was marketing it as an Oscar contender. It's much more of a fun adventure film in the vein of Indiana Jones and National Treasure. Not a dearth of substance, but a lot of fun. You get to watch all these big stars have fun finding treasured paintings and planning "heists". I ate it up. The film is far from perfect though. It sometimes drags a bit. It isn't a huge problem, but occasionally I found it could have some parts left on the cutting room floor. The movie also felt very fragmented at times. Scenes would jump back and forth very choppily, and the tone felt off. At times it felt like it wanted to be darker and say more, yet then it would revert to a jokier, lighter, and more action-y vibe. The script, written by Grant Heslov and George Clooney, felt stilted and very unnatural at other times. It did bother me some, but it wasn't a wholly bad screenplay. It just really didn't work at times. And it also took very little time to develop some of it's characters. Like Cate Blanchett's character for instance. We know she's some French art worker type, forced to work for the Nazis, with a brother in the resistance, but that's about it. One character, who shall remain nameless as not to spoil anything,  is developed so little that when he dies it seems like little more then to spur on the plot. It's actually fairly tasteless in that aspect. But otherwise I did thoroughly enjoy The Monuments Men. It was very fun, had a terrific cast, and dug up old memories of fun adventure movies and old treasure hunter novels. Clooney has a long ways to go as a director, but I did like this film. Sue me, but compared to some of January's more dismal releases, Monuments Men is thin shaft of hopeful light. It's just not as hopeful as I expected it to be. I will recommend this. Just keep your expectations low and try and enjoy it. I did. I give The Monuments Men 3.5 out of 5 stars. If you haven't already, follow me on Twitter @WhitsMovies and like me on Facebook at! Happy Viewing!          

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