Monday, June 2, 2014

Now at Netflix: The Monuments Men (2014)

The Monuments Men (2014) - Directed by George Clooney; Written by Clooney and Grant Heslov; Starring Clooney, Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Hugh Bonneville, Bob Balaban.

By Kenny Howell

When The Monuments Men got bumped from the December lineup, you knew there was trouble.

It's obvious fairly on why. The Monuments Men never really gets focused, and as much as it tries to sell its premise that a piece of art is as important as a soldier's life, the message never really hits home.

Part of it may be that Clooney and co-writer Heslov felt they really had to convince people of it. That ends up in forced speeches on the value of a culture's art, which I personally agree with, but does make it seem like they are trying too hard.

The movie is based on a true story about a group of men who are tasked with hunting down pieces of art that the Nazis have stolen during WWII. The Nazis would like to erase all of that art if the Reich falls, so it is a little bit of a race against time. Frank Stokes (Clooney) is given the job of gathering a team of art historians and turning them into soldiers just enough to get the job done. They must hop across Europe as the war comes to a close and gather up the art before the Nazis extinguish history.

The problem really starts with the tone of the film. It's a little scattered, but it seems to lean toward a screwball comedy-ish style. Obviously, these art historians are not the best soldiers in the world, so some humor is pulled from that. But this is a war zone, and men were killed while trying to retrieve the art. It makes for some awkward transitions of Bill Murray and Bob Balaban fighting to one of their friends dying in the line of fire. And speaking of Balaban, why was he the choice as kind of the loose cannon. A fine actor, but he doesn't really bring the right kind of craziness.

Clooney is a pretty solid director, one of the better actors of this generation to make that transition. But this, along with the pretty dreadful Leatherheads, doesn't come close to showing his talent.

The Monuments Men is also available at Redbox, iTunes and Amazon.

Rating: *1/2

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