Friday, February 21, 2014

The Monuments Men

Get out your rations and art tools, we're reviewing The Monuments Men!

In WWII, to keep the enemy and our side from bombing famous monuments, Frank Stokes (George Clooney) puts together a squad of artists, architects and art dealers to protect historic monuments and recover stolen art. 

Y'know, I wasn't a huge fan of Inglorious Bastards. I wish Quentin Tarantino had directed this one, instead. At least with his film, there would be fun, quip-y dialogue, and he'd know how to handle an interesting premise and juggle multiple characters. The Monuments Men is a very mediocre film.

It has a huge cast including George Cloony, Bill Murray, Matt Damon, John Goodman, and Cate Blanchett – but it doesn't know what to do with them! Cate Blanchett at least has fun in her role, but Bill Murray and John Goodman are especially wasted. Murray's parts are enjoyable, but nowhere near as fun as they should be, given literally every other film he's been in. Bob Balaban probably makes out the best with his character, but it still feels like there's something missing. It feels like an Ocean's 11 where all these interesting characters are put together to have chemistry, but we never see that chemistry. It's referenced that Balaban's character is called 'Private' and they all make a joke about how he won't like that, but never give any reason as to why. Am I missing another film? There are a lot of jokes like that. It's like they expect us to be intimately familiar with these characters even though we've just met them. 

Which is why when there's supposed to be a really heartfelt moment (about every five minutes) it falls flat. We've just been introduced to these characters, have no emotional attachment and don't care why they're crying yet! The movie does not make very good use of its time. We should instantly get a sense of who these guys are. Instead, they mostly stand around looking tired. It tries to be funny and moving and fails at both. Clooney's character makes a moving speech about every half hour and it feels like they're all supposed to have dramatic resonance. But with so many, so often, they all lose their weight! Everything he says is a dramatic speech. It would've been funny if this was a running gag, and every time he got started his friends went, "Oh god, here he goes again. Bring out the smokes." That would've been a great way to give the main character an interesting trait. Instead, we're expected to feel sad every time he makes another speech.

Like Robocop, Monuments Men doesn't seem to have a focus. First, it's made to look like they're looking for this one piece of stolen art, then it's all about protecting famous monuments from being torn apart, then it's about finding this one statue and avenging their fallen mate. They should watch Captain America and take note on how to successfully show a significant passing of time. 

I love how this is a WWII movie, but the Russians are still the bad guys. C'mon guys, let it go already. Also, Hitler is shown in some weird lighting. Like: Standing slightly out of frame as if he were a statue. It's weird and creepy.

I really wanted more from this movie. The action is barely-there, and what we get isn’t even decently anti-climactic. It should be funnier. It should be more moving. It should have better dialogue. It's so weird how much it gets wrong.

THE GOOD: Great cast, cool idea, some funny bits I guess?

THE BAD: The cast is wasted, story is unfocused, music is too sappy, characters' chemistry is not earned, should be funnier, too many moving speeches. 

THE VERDICT: $$ Yeah, I don't know. This reminds me a lot of Red Tails. It's a good idea with some good bits here and there but mostly executed poorly.

MOVIES LIKE IT: Red Tails, Inglorious Bastards, Saving Private Ryan, Ocean's 12/13

ONE-SCENE METAPHOR: Matt Damon accidentally steps on a landmine and it takes 10 minutes to get him off it. It's a scene that's been done better and funnier in other movies. They try to have quip-y dialogue, but also try to have a moment, and they're both not very good. It feels like this scene should be better or they should have taken it out rather than taking time away from the more interesting aspects of the premise.

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