The Men Who Stare at Goats’ baaaaaad entertainment

By Anthony Clegg

While rendering moments of comedy, drama, and genuine interest,
“The Men Who Stare at Goats” leaves the audience with a longing and
sadness for what could have been.

The story follows Bob Wilton, played by Ewan McGregor, a
journalist who discovers and assists in a military sect that
specializes in psychic warfare.

While attempting to recover from a strange and oddly moving
divorce, Wilton enlists as a military field reporter at the
beginning of the Iraq War. A stroke of luck, or perhaps a turn of
fate, finds Wilton dining next to Lyn Cassady, played by George
Clooney, an exemplary leader in the art of psychic warfare, or as
he prefers to call it, a “Jedi warrior.”

In a scene where McGregor’s character inquires as to what a Jedi
warrior is, which is immensely ironic for any fan of the “Star
Wars” prequels, Cassady explains that they are warriors of the
mind, or those who have developed superpowers thanks to the hippie
teachings of military expert Bill Django, played Jeff Bridges.

With a little persuasion, Cassady leads Wilton on a top-secret
mission into Iraq that, along the way, is fraught with a bit of
adventure, a smidge of mystery, and a great deal of the

The movie begins well with a fresh and interesting story,
fantastic actors, many of whom have won several Academy Awards, and
the promise of great enjoyment, the overall film concept becomes
too obscure to manage and collapses in on itself.

Perhaps this may be blamed on the directorial inexperience of
Grant Heslov, a fairly well known character actor whom many people
would vaguely recognize by sight and probably not by name. His
filmmaking style is not as concise or clear as perhaps audiences
have come to expect.

What makes this film particularly difficult to categorize as
“bad” or “good,” is the fact that there is so much about “The Men
Who Stare at Goats” to enjoy, in particular, the actors.

McGregor proves here that perhaps he deserves more than the
stigma of being the young Obi-Wan Kenobi. In one particular scene,
McGregor displays his ability to not only cry on command, but his
ability to be sincerely believed in this act.

Clooney again proves that he is not just a Hollywood pretty-boy.
Through the course of the film, he becomes dark, dirty, mangled,
absurd, and yes, to some extent deranged.

Sadly, none of these adjectives can truly erase just how cool
Clooney comes across on screen.

Additionally, Bridges delivers a solid and exceptionally
entertaining performance as an older military-endorsed hippie who
over many years has acquired a tolerance to a wide variety of
narcotics. Kevin Spacey demonstrates yet again how horribly
despicable he can make a character appear with his portrayal of
Larry Hooper, a former student of Django’s Jedi warrior teachings,
who has turned to the dark side.

Even with these powerhouse actors, “The Men Who Stare at Goats”
does not succeed to either overly impress, or massively fail.

Throughout the film, there are several sections that seem
sluggish, or even dull. Many could argue that these sections hold
the lion’s share of the film’s touted dark comedy, but perhaps the
dark comedy is just mistaken for awkward laughter, or something to
fill the emptiness these scenes create.

What’s more, the style of storytelling and the pacing do nothing
to greatly capture the fullest attention of the audience. One of
the telling signs of a movie that suffers from this ailment is when
a movie “feels long,” but in reality lasts a mere 90 minutes.

This is a film that shall go down in history as neither a
paragon of filmmaking, nor on par with the immortally abysmal
“Batman & Robin.” It is a fairly entertaining piece with some
redeeming aspects, but in the end, it is forgettable due to the
lack of cohesive storytelling.

Reach Anthony Clegg at:

The Men Who Stare at Goats

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The Men Who Stare at Goats’ baaaaaad entertainment

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